Are sore muscles keeping you from working out? Carbs might be part of the answer.
The truth is, we spend so much time focusing on our workouts that we forget the importance of recovery. Off days are not bad. In fact, they are a big part of what allows you to stay consistent, feel better, have fewer aches and injuries, and see more results from each workout.
For most of us, recovery might just mean not exercising or maybe having some electrolytes. But, there’s so much more involved, and many of the best recovery techniques — like eating more carbs and de-stressing techniques — are incredibly enjoyable and relaxing. Best of all? Recovery is easy to fit into your busy day.
We’re breaking down our top nine tips to recover and reduce muscle soreness faster so you can bounce back from your workouts, give your body the recovery it needs, and keep crushing your goals.
9 Recovery Tips to Reduce Muscle Soreness
#1 Ease Into Your Routine
While there are lots of things we can do post-workout to help reduce muscle soreness, there are some things we can do to prevent some of that soreness in the first place. One place to start is by easing into your fitness routine. If it’s been months since you’ve exercised, easing back into a routine is going to be key. Again, it doesn’t do us any good to give it our all-out effort for one single workout and be left too drained to exercise for the rest of the week.
Ease back in and listen to your body. Start small with shorter bursts of exercise and go with the intensity level that feels right for you. Be sure to take rest days and sprinkle in some active recovery days where you do something very low impact, like walking.
If you’re restarting your fitness journey or starting from scratch, here are some great workouts to get started with.
An intro to yoga class that’s perfect for beginners. No experience or fitness level required.
If you’re interested in Pilates and want a great beginner place to start, look no further than this Pilates Foundations class with Cassey Ho. You’ll explore the foundational movements and tone your body from head to toe as you master the basics.
Ever feeling like working out without actually working out? Walk your heart out to high-energy music. We’ll have walked a whole mile in place by the end of this workout.
#2 Rethink Your Warm-up
Here’s another way to help reduce muscle soreness — stretch! But, not just any old stretching. Dynamic stretches have been shown to reduce the risk of injury, support better movement, and help make your workouts more effective. And, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, your dynamic warm-up can be pretty simple, such as a few minutes of movement that gets your heart rate up like jumping jacks, or jogging, followed by dynamic exercises like arm circles and lunges.
#3 Cool Down
Speaking of stretching, while it’s important to add some dynamic stretches prior to exercise, it’s also important to cool down after you work out. According to the Mayo Clinic, cooling down after your workout is important for the gradual recovery of pre-exercise blood pressure as well as heart rate and to help regulate blood flow.
Cooldowns look similar to warm-ups, where you’ll slow down your workout pace for about five to ten minutes, which could look like a brisk walk, followed by some stretching, which can help support flexibility, as well as range of motion.
Before reaching for the next tool in your muscle soreness recovery toolkit, slow things down and show your body some extra love with a FitOn post-workout cooldown.
#4 Refuel (Food & Water)
We can’t talk about post-workout recovery without talking about post-workout refueling. An essential part of your after-workout recovery plan involves food and water! We need to rehydrate and refuel those tired muscles.
Let’s talk hydration first. Not hydrating after a workout can be a recipe for dehydration, which is dangerous territory for both your health and your muscles. And, when you exercise, you sweat, which means you’re losing some electrolytes. Be sure to reach for your water bottle and replenish and consider adding a splash of coconut water for an electrolyte boost.
Next, your post-workout snack or meal is going to play a large role in supporting muscle recovery. Fueling your body with a post-workout meal is important for the repair and rebuilding of those sore muscles. When it comes to what foods to eat after a workout, research supports a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein (or 3 grams of carbohydrates for every 1 gram of protein) for building lean muscle mass.
Some great post-workout snack options include:
A bowl of oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder, a tablespoon of almond butter, and some fresh fruit.
A post-workout shake with banana, spinach, berries, almond butter, and a scoop of protein powder.
Two hard-boiled eggs with a piece of whole-grain toast and nut butter.
#5 Take an Epsom Salt Bath
If you have time to take a bath after your workout, do it! Or, at least try to get one in on your recovery days. A warm bath can help your muscles relax, which is exactly what you need after a workout.
You can also consider adding some Epsom salt or essential oils to take the relaxation element up a notch.
#6 Rely on Recovery Technology
Let’s face it — as much as we all deserve a weekly massage or chiropractic adjustment, the cost and time commitment makes it unsustainable. But, this doesn’t mean that you can’t show your tired muscles some daily TLC. With muscle recovery technologies, it’s easier than ever to take your muscle recovery up a notch right from the comfort of your own home.
We tested out some of Hyperice’s amazing recovery technology to see how these at-home modalities could help support muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
If you’re dealing with muscle soreness, whether it’s from working out, working a job where you’re on your feet all day, or have muscle soreness from sitting at your work desk for 8 hours straight, this recovery device pulls out all the stops. It’s like your own personal massage gun that comes with three different levels, so you can decide how much pressure to use. It also comes with four different head attachments, which is helpful depending on what muscles you’re targeting.
I personally used it to ease some neck and back tension after a long day of sitting at my desk and found relief almost immediately after use. I also tried including it as part of my pre-workout routine, using it as a warm-up tool for my muscles, targeting specific areas, depending on what workout day it was.
One of the biggest perks for me was that this is a tool that you can use yourself at any time. Another big bonus is that this was a device that could be incorporated into every aspect of my fitness routine, whether I used it as part of my warm-up, cooldown, or integrated in my recovery days.
If you’re looking for a smaller, more targeted muscle recovery device, the Hypersphere is a vibrating massage ball that can be used for trigger point release on those super tight muscles, making it a great addition to your post-workout recovery plan. It may be small and portable but this thing comes with some serious power.
I found this recovery tool to be especially helpful after leg day for easing muscle soreness. It was simple to use, and I found the vibration level to be strong enough, while not too strong for those tight and sensitive hamstrings. On my active recovery days, I found myself swapping out my typical foam rolling routine for this and really appreciated the trigger point release the Hypersphere offered. As someone who uses an acupressure mat regularly, this was a huge plus for me as trigger point release is a big part of my current exercise recovery routine.
#7 Schedule in Rest Days
Consistently showing up to your workouts is key for reaching your fitness goals, but scheduling in your rest days is just as important. In fact, overtraining syndrome can stall your results.
Be sure to listen to your body and schedule in rest days based on your individual level of intensity when it comes to your fitness routine.
Keep in mind that your rest days don’t have to be sedentary! A walk, some gentle yoga, stretching, and plenty of muscle recovery TLC is a recipe for rest day success.
Did you know that stress can cause muscle soreness? Pair that with the soreness you may get from exercise, and you may be dealing with a serious kink in your neck. When you’re stressed, you may be holding tension in your body without even realizing it. Think about those high-stress days and how your body felt when you went to lay down at the end of the day. Chances are your body was tight! All this added muscle tension is only going to exacerbate any sort of post-workout muscle soreness you may have.
This is where stress reduction as part of a way to reduce muscle soreness comes into play. Try to fit one form of stress reduction into your day, even if it’s just a five-minute before-bed meditation or taking your lunch break outside. You can also set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to stop, breathe, and take notice of how you are holding your body throughout the day.
On your active recovery days, try to use these as days to decompress as well. Take an Epsom salt bath, use recovery technology like the Hypervolt to give yourself some extra TLC, and just find time to breathe. It will do your sore muscles and mind some good!
Lastly, sleep is a foundation of wellness, and it definitely plays a role in supporting athletic performance so we can show up as our best for our next workout. Research shows that sleep not only enhances athletic performance, but it also helps improve muscle recovery and can help reduce the risk of injury.
Prioritizing sleep is important not only for overall health but for supporting your fitness goals as well. If you struggle to get a solid 7-9 hours of sleep per day, check out our Ultimate Guide to Sleep.
When You Take Care of Your Body, It Gives You Results
We often associate muscle soreness with exercise, and while sore muscles when you first start your fitness journey or do a workout for the first time after taking a break is common, being constantly sore isn’t what we want. In fact, this can hold us back. Sore muscles aren’t a sign that we are doing something right. This could be a sign that we aren’t warming up, cooling down, or giving our body what it needs to recover optimally.
The bottom line is to always listen to your body, give your body the TLC it deserves, and it will give you the results you’re after. Taking recovery just as seriously as you do your actual workout may be the ticket to helping you get closer to reaching your goals.