Thank you to Lisa for sharing her question about delayed onset muscle soreness on FaceBook. She says, “I’d love to know more about mastering the blend of resistance training and yoga – I can’t seem to get into a weekly rhythm that avoids the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) of one affecting the practice of the other…”
Audio version: Muscle Soreness Affects My Training
DOMS is that soreness you may feel the day or two after training. It can feel like a tenderness or burning sensation when you move or general stiffness.
What causes DOMS is a question up for debate. Because of the burning sensation, there is an argument that is comes from lactic acid build up though there is little evidence to prove that. Lactic acid is a product of prolonged muscle activity. Mostly, it is believed that soreness comes from micro tears in muscle and connective tissue fibers.
If the latter is the case, then the body needs to repair the damage to the tissues. There are things you can do to help the body heal faster and more efficiently.
Hydration and Nutrition
Be sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day and both during and after your practice. Your body is made mostly of water. If you are not staying properly hydrated muscle and connective tissue fibers become less pliable and tear easier.
Along with the water, you want to be sure you are getting enough electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that regulate the flow of fluids around and within cells. Without proper electrolyte balance, cells can become dehydrated or even swollen with fluid. A simple and inexpensive way to get electrolytes without sugary, artificial sports drinks is to squeeze some lime juice and sprinkle of a bit of sea salt to your water.
Are you eating enough protein? We, women, love carbs and sweets, but we often forget to get enough protein. Protein is vital to repair and rebuild tissue in the body.
Something else to think about is having an anti-inflammatory diet. Cut back on grains, dairy, sugar, and coffee, which tend to be acidic, and add more alkaline foods. Watery fruits and veggies like melons and cucumbers are more alkaline. Also, add herbs and spices like ginger, garlic and mint. Their anti-inflammatory properties help speed healing in the affected muscles.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Before you jump full force into your workout or practice, give your body time to warm up, especially if you are already sore. A good yoga instructor should ease you into your practice, but you may need a little extra time to do some gentle movement before class.
The cool down is most often ignored. I am guilty of this after weight training. After my last rep, I head straight for the locker room. What I need to do is take the time to cool down and let the body know that it’s done.
There is argument about whether the human body really needs to warm up and cool down. Back when we actually moved our bodies most of the day, we probably did not but given our sedentary culture, our bodies may need to ease into training.
Your body is still active when we sleep. That is when it goes into repair mode. You need sleep so your body can heal those micro tears that are causing soreness.
Granted it is challenging to get enough sleep these days. If you cannot get 7-9 hours, try to get quality sleep. Prepare the body and mind to wind down by keeping the lights low in the evening and turning off computers and televisions an hour or two before bed. Take a bath or shower. Read a good book. This will help you settle down and sleep better. Eating 3 or more hours before bed can help you stay asleep throughout the night. Darken your room as much as possible, including covering up digital clocks. Reducing noise can improve your sleep as well.
Your post-workout shower is a great hydrotherapy treatment for muscle soreness. I’ll a huge fan of hydrotherapy so I would go to someplace like Spa World in Chantilly, VA or Kabuki Springs in San Francisco after every training or practice, if I could. Turn on the water as hot as you can tolerate it for one minute to get circulation moving toward the skin, then turn on the water as cold as you can tolerate it for one minute to get your circulation moving toward your inner organs. Go back and forth a few times to get the circulation pumping toxins out and healthy fluids into the cells.
Another combination that works well for me is to take a long hot bath then get into a cold shower. The circulation moving feels like something prickling your skin but I find it relaxing and healing. These hot/cold treatments are great sleep aids too. Adding Epson salts to your bath water is very soothing.
When I know a client is going to feel sore after one of our workouts, I usually advise them to use Arnica Montana. Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that you can use topically as a cream or gel or, if you think your whole body will be sore, you can use the oral remedy. Arnica relieves inflammation and speeds the healing of bruises.
When I was dancing with Naoko Maeshiba, Tiger Balm was my savior. I would have very little time to warm up after an hour and a half driving commute before jumping into three-hour dance rehearsals. Tiger Balm’s ginger-cinnamon warmth saved me from who knows what kind of injuries from tightness and stiffness. It smells great too.
Know Your Rhythm
DOMS usually occurs 24 to 48 hours after exercise and lasts up to 72 hours. Do you feel sore the day after a workout or two days afterward? Awareness of when you usually feel it can help you schedule your workouts.
Say for example, you went gung ho in hot yoga class and you know that two days from now getting up from your desk will be monumental, but you plan to have your heavy weight-training day. You may want to rethink that. Have a light weight day or go for an easy walk. If you have had a heavy weight-training day, you might want to opt for a restorative or gentle yoga class for the next workout. If you are super sore, you may want to schedule a massage.
Don’t just take my word on these suggestions. Experiment with any of these methods and let me know in the comments below which work for you.
If you have your own methods for overcoming muscle soreness, please share them in the comments as well.