How To Relieve Sore Muscles: Advice from a Pro Athlete
by Renee Metivier
Muscle soreness can put a massive damper on your training as an athlete, and poor recovery can ultimately lead to injury.
The older I get the more I realize how crucial recovery is to not only healthy training but longevity.
I’ve been running for a long time.
I started running in high school and at the University of Colorado where I won the NCAA title in 2005 and then went pro. Since then I’ve won:
- 2010 USA Track & Field (USATF) Indoor 3000m National Champion
- 2012 USATF 20k Road National Champion
- 2016 USATF 1/2 Marathon Trail National Champion
- 2017 USATF Marathon Trail National Champion
- 2020 3-Time Treadmill World Record Holder
I have had multiple injuries that resulted in major surgeries and intensive recovery.
An injury to my Achilles in 2011 led me to the Olympic Training Center In Colorado Springs, where I had access to the best doctors, physiologists, physical therapists, and trainers. The works!
I realized many people, including elite athletes to the average person, don’t have access to these resources, so I wanted to create a facility that offered the best therapists and coaches along with the latest research that was affordable to the public.
With my journey, it became really important to me to help rebuild people stronger and more resilient.
So, I founded Recharge Sport here in Bend where I’m the owner, head coach, and personal trainer with a focus on biomechanics and correctional exercise.
As a coach as well as an athlete, preventing and relieving muscle soreness is on my mind a lot.
The Myth About Muscle Soreness
When your muscles get that tightness the day after an intense workout, it’s actually not lactic acid that’s the culprit. That’s a big misnomer.
It’s delayed onset muscle soreness – a result of microscopic muscle tears.
Typically, you will clear all the lactic acid out of your muscles fairly quickly, but the delayed muscle soreness (DOMS) is what happens when your muscles are overstressed. DOMS is completely normal and should only last 24-48 hours as your body recovers – this is the adaptation phase where recovery should be prioritized.
Don’t ice after a really hard workout unless you have noticeable inflammation and pain, because icing will prevent the necessary blood flow for full adaptation and muscle repair.
Research recommends going from hot to cold to hot multiple times so that you get that pump-through vasoconstriction in the cold and vasodilation in the hot to help push inflammation out but also keep new healing blood flowing through the tissues.
I like to finish in the hot last to keep that blood flow moving. I drink some Ablis CBD sparkling water as well to hydrate and increase vasodilation.
It’s All Maintenance
It’s most important to get that vascularity, get your blood vessels moving, and flush out those toxins.
With blood flow, you’re not only flushing out toxins, the new blood being pushed in is bringing growth factors and platelet-rich plasma to your tissues as well.
That’s what speeds up the healing.
A lot of people focus on that lactic acid, but your heart works really hard when you work out to pump blood to your tissues.
When you’re tired after a workout, your heart is slower in pumping it out. So, anything to increase that vascularity and get that blood pumping is good!
Your muscle tissues actually get micro-damaged after a hard workout. Your body has to repair in the adaptation phase, and that’s when your body overcompensates and how you get stronger.
That’s why you need to incorporate progressive, systematic stress to your body that’s not too much that you can’t recover from. Stress can be good when you have an adequate recovery to adapt!
You need those recovery periods, but anyway you can speed up the process and increase that blood flow, the shorter those periods become which leads to better adaptation and fewer injury risks
Make Recovery Part of Your Nightly Routine
The best is to avoid injury from the beginning and take care of your body as early as you can.
Recovery and healing in that adaptation period are just as important as working hard in training, if not more so.
Longer sessions in the infrared sauna or hot/cold tubs are fantastic, but even 5 mins each evening can be a game-changer. I keep everything I need for my muscle relief routine next to my bed and set an alarm for myself every night as a reminder.
I massage the tinctures straight onto my ankle then stretch before I go to bed using my stretch rope.
I’ve got it down where it doesn’t have to take forever. I do some longer, full-body sessions in the week, but I’m always doing at least five to 15 minutes of something specific every day. For me, it is my “diva” ankle and also my hips that are my constant focus.
My routine helps me sleep better too. I’m deep breathing, drinking my CBD, massaging with the muscle rub, foam rolling, and stretching for 15 minutes and I usually sleep more soundly after. And better sleep is one of the most important things you can do for increased overall health and wellness.
Consciously make it a part of your nightly routine until it becomes a habit and easy to stick with!
Recovery Time is Key
One of my favorite quotes from Deena Kastor, the American marathon record holder, is “It’s not about over-training, it’s about under-recovery.”
Under recovering is what creates over-training and what leads to injury and burnout.
Everyone is different when it comes to their recovery time.
The quicker you recover, the better you can adapt and also minimize injury risk, but it still depends on the individual and how well you’ve been training.
As I get older, I need two to three days between really hard efforts.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, if your heart rate isn’t coming down between intervals or it’s staying too high, that’s a good indication of needing more recovery time.
Sleep is still number one and it’s a factor in your training.
Your legs are a good indicator as well. Are they feeling like lead or are they pretty bouncy? That seems pretty simple, but it’s a very tangible way to listen to your body’s needs.
Also, pay attention to stiffness in the mornings.
I train six days a week, but I only go hard running-wise on two of those days and I have one day that I run at about medium.
I lift heavy weights twice a week and balance lifting with my hard running days.
But if I need an extra day because I don’t feel recovered, I’ll take it. And I am always making sure to do functional mobility, prehab, and self-care regularly.
I think that’s the biggest problem. People don’t put enough emphasis on recovery in their training.
You’re only as good as how much you can recover from, especially in the long-term.
You may be able to get away with it in the short term, but it could lead to injury or poor performance down the road.
Injury is Preventable
None of us are rational with ourselves. Not even me. I need a coach too!
We don’t typically and regularly check-in and say, “Oh, my hamstrings are extra tight on the warmup. What’s going on there?”
“Are there any spots that I’ve started to neglect that are basically screaming at me but I’m ignoring?”
Knowing when to push and when not to push is a skill, it’s hard to do.
Having someone on the outside that is knowledgeable can see those better.
Listen to your body.
Your body gives you signs, and it’s very important to have optimal recovery so that you can reap the benefits from your hard work.
My college coach was really, really big on that. I thank him every day for really teaching us to listen to sensory data.
When I run, I’m not big on checking my heart rate because I can feel it. But that can be a good tool to use when you are learning to listen to your body.
I check in with my breathing, check in with my heart, see how my ankles land on the ground, feel for any tension in my jaw, and relax my shoulders.
I call it my dashboard.
I think everyone should create their own mental dashboard.
Checking in helps you to stay in the moment, stay present, and listen to what’s going on with your body. The mental side is not talked about enough and it is a big proponent.
The number one performance enhancement is getting enough sleep. I don’t think I can say that enough!
A lot of people think it’s a badge of honor to be able to function on low sleep, but it really shouldn’t be. You’re actually lowering your health by depriving your body of rest.
It can make all the difference in your workouts, but also your overall cognitive function.
Stretching is Critical
I like to use Ablis’ tinctures and muscle rub while I’m doing mobility and stretching.
I stretch my muscles, but more importantly, I focus on the full range of motion of my joints including my ankles. I need increased dorsiflexion and to make sure my talus is shifting smoothly inside the ankle joint. I spend about five minutes on my ankles specifically every day since that is my “Achilles heel.”
I’m always going to have to spend extra time on the areas I’ve injured, so I make it my first priority.
Then, I’ll go into my full body stretches.
The performance of my ankles and Achilles, which can get stiff, feels — and performs — ten times better after stretching and my injury risk goes down.
I also get a full-body massage once or twice a week with MCT oil.
Don’t Underestimate Proper Hydration
Hydration is an important factor in recovery because it aids in getting that new blood with the platelet-rich plasma and growth factors through the body.
I’m really bad about it, so I love Ablis’s sparkling water because I get CBD while I’m hydrating, and it tastes great! I drink it multiple times a week and sometimes multiple times a day – especially after hard training days or while recovering and relaxing in the infrared sauna.
I use all of Ablis’s products in conjunction, to be honest. It depends on what’s going on and what my needs are at the time. From helping me hydrate and flush my system post-workout to actually turning off and get fully relaxed, Ablis has become a big part of my post-workout routine.
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