We’ve all had that moment where a workout has hit us harder than we might expect. If you’ve dedicated any time at all to your physical fitness – even if you’ve been for a particularly lengthy or intense walk – then you’ll know the feeling of hitting the wall, of breaking through that wall, and of managing to beat your personal best, walk longer than you previously had, or push through the discomfort to start seeing serious results.
Unfortunately, sometimes, that feeling of triumph can be swiftly followed by more discomfort in the morning, as you wake up and realise your muscles aren’t going to like you much for the next day or two. Sometimes, your punishment for a particularly gruelling workout can come almost immediately after you’ve finished. Here are 5 ways you can recover after a strenuous workout. Some of these tips may apply to you, and some may not, so be sure to keep your personal situation in mind when you’re considering which of these methods to go for!
1. Use a massage gun
If applied properly, a massage gun can be a great way to relieve muscle tension and pain and get you ready for the next workout that much quicker. If you don’t know what a massage gun is, here’s a quick primer; it’s essentially a percussive tool that applies repetitive force to an area, thus relieving some of the stiffness and pain you might feel after a particularly difficult workout. There’s strong evidence these guns can work if you’re looking to relieve tension.
With that said, there are also some caveats to using a massage gun. They’re not appropriate devices in every situation; using them for a short period of time goes a long way, so don’t just hammer your muscle into oblivion. It’s also important to make sure you pick up the right massage gun for you, because there are plenty of different models and types, and they’re all geared towards different demographics. If you need more info, check this out for honest reviews on the latest and best massage guns available.
2. Keep your hydration up
One of the underappreciated aspects of a strenuous workout is the loss of water through sweating. When you’re working out, you always need to keep a bottle of water or sports drink handy; you’re going to be losing a lot of your body’s water when you’re sweating it out, so replacing it is essential. Not doing so could mean that your muscles cramp up quicker and you experience exhaustion faster, which obviously isn’t ideal when you’re working out.
It’s a myth that you can only drink water when you’re exercising, but it’s the best drink to keep with you simply because it’s bland enough that it won’t distract you from your workout. Other good drinks include tea, coconut water, or milk, all of which can hydrate you and keep your energy levels up. Try to steer clear of sugary or fatty drinks, though, because they could negate the results of your workout, even if they do make you feel good in the moment.
3. Keep exercising on rest days
Don’t get us wrong – we’re not advocating a 5k sprint or a round of weights on your rest days. Doing this could cause serious injury; giving your muscles the proper time to rest and recuperate is of paramount importance. However, if you truly want to help your muscles heal, then you can do a less strenuous, less demanding form of exercise to keep your blood flowing and keep your muscles working at a low level. Letting them rest too much will only prolong your discomfort.
Walking is a great exercise to do while you’re waiting for your muscles to heal. It keeps you active, improves your mental health significantly, and can even be done socially to keep your motivation levels up. Exercising while you’re feeling sore from a hard workout can feel counterintuitive, but you’ll start feeling the benefits as soon as you limber your muscles up, so just make sure to get out there and walk. If you don’t feel up to walking, at least try to move your muscles as much as you can.
4. Cool down after your workout
While you can’t necessarily prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), you can alleviate its effects somewhat by making sure to incorporate a proper cooldown into your workout. Cooling down ensures that you don’t overdo it; if you don’t cool down, you could experience lightheadedness or dizziness, and this could lead to fainting if you’re not careful (although this only tends to happen in a small amount of cases).
For a good cooldown, you could consider a walk on the treadmill if you’re at the gym, or slowing down your pace to a gentle jog or even a walk if you’re running outside. You could also think about building some light yoga into your cooldown session; this can help you to stretch your muscles out and keep yourself moving while making sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard during the cooldown period.
5. Don’t overdo it
One of the biggest ways you can recover faster after a strenuous workout is, unfortunately, not to overdo it in the first place. Often, the cause of being laid low is simply that you worked out too hard; you pushed yourself beyond your limit, which is fine to a certain extent, but then you kept going, and now your body is screaming at you to stop.
The best way to avoid this is to pace your workout. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you start; create a list of all the exercises you want to do and go over them before you begin, ensuring that they’re safe and productive at the same time. This will help to seriously limit the extent to which you have to recover after your workout finishes.