Race season is in full effect, and a heightened training schedule can bring on longer distances, intense strength work, and thus sore and tired muscles. So how do you allow your body to recover quickly so you can get back out there to chase your PB’s? I’ve got 6 ways to help you recover and soothe sore muscles after exercising.
I know, you’ve probably heard this again, and again. But seriously, I can’t stress how important it is! I’ll be the first to admit, that when I started to run, I was the worst at remembering to stretch at the end. I would use time as an excuse, and say I just didn’t have the time to do it! But the truth is, the more you stretch, the better able your muscles are able to recover, and build flexibility. So make time to stretch out!
Stretching is especially critical because if muscles are too tight, it can actually increase your chances of injuring yourself. Not good. Your hamstrings, and quadriceps are large muscle groups that give you power during a run, where your IT band (Iliotibial Band) acts as a stabilizer, and can become inflamed with overuse. So give these muscles and ligaments the attention they deserve post-run!
Here’s a great diagram via SportsScience.co for basic stretches to get you started:
Some great stretches you can try after your next run include:
Quadriceps Stretch: 20 – 30 seconds per leg
While standing grab one leg and bring it close to your glutes. You should feel the stretch and light pull through the front of your thighs. If you can’t push your hips slightly forward to feel a stronger stretch.
Hip Flexor Stretch: 30 – 40 seconds per side (I like to hold this one a bit longer)
Take a step forward with one leg and bend your front knee to go into a lunge position. Keeping your back straight, and tuck your behind. Push your hips forward and feel a stretch up come up the front of your pelvis on the opposite leg that is back.
IT Band Stretch: 20 – 30 seconds per leg
Standing, cross one leg behind the other. Lean sideways on the same side, that you crossed your leg behind. For example if you’ve put your right leg behind your left, then lean to the right hand side until you feel a stretch on the outside of your left leg.
Hamstring Stretch: 20 – 30 seconds per leg
Sitting down, extend one leg forward and tuck the other inwards. With your back straight hinge forward and reach for your toes on the extended leg. Feel the stretch on the back of your leg. Stretch farther forward if you need a little something extra.
Calf Stretch: 30 – 40 seconds per foot (I like to hold this one a bit longer)
Find a wall or tree to lean against. With your arms extended out, and pushing against whatever structure you can find, bend one knee slightly, extend the opposite leg by taking a step back and keep both heels down. Leaning into your knee slightly, feel a stretch in your calf.
2. Foam Roll
This is a relatively new one for me. It’s only in the last 3 months or so that I’ve really become obsessed with my foam roller. We have a love, hate relationship. Hate because, foam rolling can be slightly painful given that your muscles can be tender, but there’s a strong love for it because it feels so good afterwards and really helps to decrease tightness in your muscle groups. Foam rollers can be used on your whole body including: your legs, calves, back, shoulders, arms etc!
The foam roller I currently use is the GRID Foam Roller by Trigger Point Performance. These foam rollers are harder and more durable than your typical rollers made of foam. The GRID Foam Roller has Distrodensity Zones and Matrix Technology which is a fancy way is saying that it a unique design with nobs and raised grooves to better target muscles. There are multiple sizes suitable for all needs. I own the medium and mini foam roller. The mini one is perfect for travelling! I take it with me on vacation and work trips.
3. Muscle Cream
Sometimes, you need something to soothe your sore muscles that has a lasting sensation to take the edge off.
Enter, pain relieving muscle cream. Specifically, Kalaya Naturals Pain Relief Rub, which is a topical, fast acting, non-greasy lotion that helps to temporarily relieve you of any aches and pains from sore and tired muscles and joints.
It’s actually what I’m using now, and am finding it especially useful during my half marathon training. My calves tend to be extremely tight, so after foam rolling I like to apply this pain relief rub, by massaging the lotion into my calves. The cream leaves you with a tingling, warm feeling that has a minty herbal scent from the menthol which is an active ingredient within the cream.
You can apply Kalaya Naturals Pain Relief Rub to affected areas no more than 3 to 4 times a day (avoid contact with broken skin). If contact occurs, flush with water for 15 mins. If your pain persists more than 7 days or becomes worse speak with your Doctor.
4. Epsom Salt Baths
Unfamiliar with Epsom Salts? Or Magnesium Sulfate, as you might have heard it been called in your chemistry class back in high school or university? It is a naturally occurring mineral compound of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen, and can be purchased from your local drug store, such as Rexall or Shoppers Drug Mart. Epsom Salts have numerous health benefits, including the absorption of nutrients, the flushing of toxins, and helping to ease sore muscles as well as migraine headaches. This makes it an ideal solution for relieving those aches and pains after an intense workout. Simply add 2 cups of epsom salts to a warm bath, and soak for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Pro Tip: add a few drops of Lavender Essential Oils to your bath water in addition to your epsom salts for an added relaxation factor.
5. Massage Therapy
Did you know that there are two different types of massage therapy? Relaxation and Therapeutic Massage (aka Sports Massage). Both are effective, and beneficial but they each have different purposes.
Let’s start with the massage most people are familiar with: Relaxation. This type of massage is usually offered in a spa type of environment, and is… you guessed it, for relaxation purposes. Something to keep in mind is that the person giving the massage may not be certified to do so. Although it can still be beneficial to your body, if you are an active runner, or fitness junkie, this type of massage might not be the best for your recovery or training plans. You might be better off with a more intense and structured type of sports/therapeutic massage.
Therapeutic massage is usually conducted within a clinical environment, such as physiotherapy, and/or chiropractic offices. Therapeutic massages are also performed by a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT). These individuals have gone to school specifically for massage, and are experts in assessing your body to determine what treatment plans for injuries, and/or certain conditions are right for you. Therapeutic massages tend to be a little more intense than regular relaxation massages, as their purpose is to help treat and correct your muscles/body, which at times can be painful.
Remember, no matter what kind of massage you decide to get, ensure that you are treated by a certified professional otherwise known as a RMT.
Sometimes, you just need a couple days to let your body recover. I think we can all get caught up with being obsessive in chasing those PBs or firsts in a race, but it’s also incredibly important to listen to your body and just rest. This is sometimes the most difficult thing for active individuals to do (definitely the hardest for me!). Take a couple days off, let your body recover. You’d be surprised as to how well it responds to a resting period!
Here’s hoping these 6 ways to recover and soothe sore muscles will help you during your training, whether you’re going for your first half or full marathon, or are just looking to up your strength training game. Make sure you take the time to treat your body kindly. Remember – you only get one body in this world, so treat it well!
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