Is there anything that beats that amazing rush of endorphins following a hard HIIT session? Sweating it out, putting your body through its paces and pushing yourself to the max can make you feel amazing. But the next day when those post-workout aches and pains set in, you can be left wondering why you did it to yourself... again! The answer is, because hard work reaps results - and it’s worth it every time.
The good news is that there are a few different ways you can ease the muscle soreness and speed up recovery, ready for that next session.
Don’t make stretching an after-thought - rather than just giving your toes a quick touch on the way out the door, dedicate ample time to holding stretches after class if you want to speed up recovery. Even better? Stretching will help you get results faster
Your muscles can feel super stiff if you use them repetitively - which is definitely the case in most workouts like indoor cycling, circuit-style classes and barre. Stretching helps to return them to their natural state faster, which is what you want if soreness is an issue. Focus your stretches on the muscle groups that you’ve worked the hardest in your workout, and aim to hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds before moving on to the next. Remember to breathe deeply, pushing yourself so that you can really feel each stretch, but only as far as comfortable. Ease slowly out of each stretch before moving on to the next.
2 Foam roll
The epitome of pleasurable pain, the foam roller is often used as a form of self-massage (and is way cheaper than a real massage, too!).
You can apply as much pressure as you like to whichever muscle group you choose to roll. When you reach a particularly sore spot, hold for up to 30 seconds before rolling again. By doing this, you are increasing the blood flow to these particular areas and speeding up muscle recovery.
Foam rollers are a pretty decent investment to make if you plan on training hard regularly – they can also be used before exercise or any time throughout the day to increase mobility and break down any pesky knots.
3 Eat protein-rich meals
It’s not just what you do in the gym that boosts results. You can’t out-train a bad diet, and if you’re going hard with your workouts then it only makes sense that you go just as hard when it comes to nutrition.
Getting enough protein in your diet, particularly following a tough session, is essential to help your muscle tissues repair in time for your next session. Easy options include protein shakes and bars, but if you have time to cook up a storm in the kitchen then try a meal based around chicken, fish or tofu. Prepping a batch of meals for the week ahead is a great way to make sure you’re never caught out without that protein-rich meal when you need it, no matter how strapped for time you are.
4 Have an ice bath
If you want to take your recovery to the next level and you’re willing to suffer slightly (a lot!) for it, then try having an ice bath or cryotherapy session. The drastically cold temperatures cause your blood vessels to constrict, forcing the blood to flow to other areas of the body, with it flushing away toxins. Once the body warms up again, the blood vessels will then expand, once again increasing blood flow and circulation around the body.
It’s a bit of an extreme one, but it’s an age-old classic still used by athletes today. Who are we to argue?
5 Boost magnesium with Epsom Salts
Epsom salt - or magnesium sulphate - is a natural anti-inflammatory remedy that can be used to treat skin conditions, sore muscles and even helps battle illness.
Run a bath and empty 1 package of Epsom salts into it. Soak for about 30 minutes, making sure to drink lots of water during and after to help the detox process. These baths can be pretty exhausting, so plan an easy night and get to bed early - which brings us to our next point.
6 Get a good night’s rest
The most important and perhaps most overlooked element of the recovery process is, of course, sleep. While we can sometimes obsess over our time spent in the gym, often we forget that it’s only during our rest phases that we can really reap the benefits of all our hard work.
Not only are hormones like growth hormone released when we sleep, which is essential for muscle recovery, but when we’re tired and sleep-deprived, we are much less likely to make smart food choices that could also help with our recovery speed and overall health. Not to mention, new cell regeneration takes place while we sleep, and while the brain shuts off, more blood flows to the rest of the body to delivery the oxygen necessary for muscle repair.Aim for 7-8 hours a night, and ensure a restful, deep sleep by avoiding computers, phones and other blue lights for an hour before bed.