Recovery – How Sore is Too Sore?


You know that feeling. You trained hard yesterday and today you’re paying for it. You felt great at the time and are super motivated to work out today, but you’re not sure… should you train or take a rest?

It’s a good question, and there are a lot of factors to consider when answering it.

What/how did you train?

  • Did you train a specific body part, like legs and did you go for heavy lifts?
  • Did you do a plyometric session or an interval running session?
  • Did you take a sweaty full body yoga session?

If you answered yes, you might want to think about taking time to rest. During a workout intense lifting causes microscopic tears to form in the fiber and connective tissue of muscles. These tears fatigue the muscles and accumulate in large numbers. With proper rest and sufficient nutrients the muscles are slowly rebuilt over the following days, but full repair can take a week or more.

Building a recovery period into any training program is important because this is where that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise.

How often did you train? And for how long?

It could be a super intense 15-20 minute HIIT session, an endurance run or cycle or a heavy weights session (with a longer rest period). These are all different styles of training and should be looked at differently when considering recovery.

How do we define recovery?

Recovery is not just sitting still. In fact there’s a lot of evidence to suggest light cardiovascular activity such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming can be advantageous to recovery and help reduce muscle soreness quicker. Cardio helps your body repair muscle damage more quickly because it increases blood flow to various areas of the body. Cardio also improves insulin sensitivity and in this way can help your muscles better absorb the nutrients you eat, which can lead to more muscle growth and less fat storage over time.

Other things that help with recovery:

  • Sleep! Sleep is particularly important as it restores brain function and alertness in preparation for intense training sessions. Sleep also enhances muscular recovery through protein synthesis and human growth hormone release. Aim to get 8-10 hours a night and focus on getting yourself into a more relaxed state an hour before bedtime.
  • Hydration! Water is needed to transport nutrients to your cells and transport waste out of the body. Drinking adequate amounts of water to meet your training demands can help flush toxins out of the body and prevent dehydration, which is known to make muscle soreness more painful. The consumption of electrolytes can also aid in rehydration. If you worked out for longer than 90 minutes, you should supplement with electrolytes.
  • Nutrition! Proper nutrition boils down to supplying your body with the nutrients needed to efficiently recover from your workouts. You want to eat a meal or snack within 30 minutes of exercise for your body to reap the most benefit from the nutrients you are providing. A good rule of thumb is to consume a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein after intense cardio and a 2:1 ratio of carb to protein after heavy lifting or strength training.
  • Increase blood flow! Yoga, deep stretch classes, foam rolling, sauna, cryopathy, and acupuncture are just a few ways to do this. Essentially, anything that promotes blood flow back to the area will aid recovery.
  • Massage! Massage is thought to decrease the inflammation caused by training. As the muscle cells become more adapted to exercise, the number of mitochondria increase to provide energy to those muscle cells. Massage helps to aid this adaption process. Experiment with different methods and see what works for you.

Knowing your body and giving it what it needs will aid your recovery. Develop your own routine to optimise your recovery.

Don’t forget lulafit offers massage, nutrition advice and personal training services to assist you with all your recovery needs.

-Sara Adams, Personal Trainer



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