Defeat Muscle Soreness with Active Recovery

active-recovery-domsEver wondered why your muscles seem to ache the most a few days after a hard workout? It turns out this pain is the byproduct of something called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

And, make no mistake; DOMS can bring you to your knees and/or cause you to have to roll out of bed since your abs hurt so bad you can’t get yourself to sit up! And, if that isn’t bad enough, DOMS can also wreck your ability to perform other workouts later in the week. It can even impact your work and family life since you can barely move your limbs!

The good news is researchers have discovered a technique that can dramatically reduce the symptoms of DOMS. And this technique is called active recovery.

Now, when I used to hear the words active recovery, or active rest, I simply thought it meant to take it easy. You know, get some good rest and eat well. And while getting at least 8 hour of quality sleep is extremely important as is eating clean… active recovery isn’t actually synonymous with resting.

Instead, active recovery requires us to do some light exercising at 60% to 70% effort after a hard WOD and, especially, during our “off” or “active recovery” days. Some of my favorite active recovery exercises are light jogging, rowing, and playing basketball or soccer with my kids after dinner.

There’s a ton of science behind active recovery. When we perform hard anaerobic (without oxygen) exercises like 4 rounds for time of 400-meter run, 25 push-ups, and 25 air squats lactic acid builds up in our muscles. This lactic acid decreases the pH of our blood and causes something called metabolic acidosis. And this, my friends, is what brings the pain to our game a day or two after that killer AMRAP workout.

The good news is active recovery can help to clear this lactic acid from our muscles. It does this by oxidizing the lactate enabling our bodies to flush it away.

But, again, in order to actively recover we must move. So, here are some practical ideas you can experiment with.

  1. Do some mobility work and light stretching after a hard workout. If time permits, do an easy, very relaxed, 800-meter jog once your heart rate has come down.
  2. Then, on your active recovery day go for a light 1-mile jog at around 60% to 70% effort. If you have access to a rowing machine you can do a relaxed 500 to 1,000-meter row. You could also go for a relaxed bicycle ride.
  3. Next, play sports on your active recovery day! Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, encourages all athletes to regularly learn and play new sports. It helps with DOMS and can be fun for all involved… especially your kids!
  4. Finally, ask your wife what sorts of chores she needs help with. When I recently did this I ended up bringing several Rubbermaid bins full of clothes down from our barn loft… not only did I work up a good sweat the lactate was definitely flushed out of my body and the slight soreness I was feeling from a few days earlier virtually disappeared!
  5. And, of course, get at least 8 hours of sleep, stay hydrated, eat clean, and spray magnesium oil all over your body after your cold shower!

So give these tips a try and take note as to whether your muscle soreness becomes more tolerable. Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!