Let’s face it, legs day sometimes hurts afterward… and that’s why most of us dread it. Scientists are still debating on the exact mechanism of how this intramuscular pain develops, but what is known and agreed upon is that heavy load and increased work is a direct cause of this phenomenon.
This soreness post-exercise is referred to as Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, and is considered to be mostly due to the masking of your lower body’s fatigue limit by its own strength and power capacity. Here are three quick and easy ideas for coaxing those legs back into submission!
1. Foam Rolling
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Perhaps the most useful and ubiquitous post-legs day relief out there… but potentially the most painful depending on the severity of your DOMS.
For those of you not privy to foam rolling, it allows for a slow and gradual myofascial release of long skeletal muscles by rolling your ailing limb or muscle group on a closed-cell foam cylinder; think of this like rolling out dough with a rolling pin.
Essentially this smooshes and stretches muscles as well as the corresponding connective tissues surrounding them. It is believed that this process helps push out/drain the waste products that accumulate during the cellular re-genesis that occurs post workout… allowing fresh blood and nutrients to reach capillary beds that get closed off from inflammation (like wringing out a sponge).
Try rolling slowly over affected areas of your legs using your upper body and core to support more or less of your body weight (depending on how much pressure you need to get that optimal massage).
A good technique is to start at the furthest most point of a muscle, and slowly roll up to the closest point to your midline or the actual muscle’s origin.
You may also feel some pain when you roll those muscles most affected by your prior leg workout, but that’s fine. Moderate the amount of pressure on these sensitive areas by supporting yourself more with the rest of your body… not only will you loosen up those leg muscles, but you’ll get a mini core workout in too!
Range of motion, or ROM, is a key element to anyone’s health. This is your flexibility about all of your joints which typically depreciates with excessive training and the aging process… unless properly maintained.
Yoga is my go-to for staving off inflexibility and I utilize it to get a deep stretching of my hip girdle, as well as a highly functional balance and endurance exercise if I have the focus to go for a while.
The plus side of yoga is its inherent roots in meditation, allowing for you to create balance and stability in your mind as well as your body.
Start off with simple poses, positions that you can hold for 15-30 seconds, and build up your tolerance to the stretching effects of the more complex ones with time.
I can admit that I am definitely not an accomplished yogi, but there are plenty of online sources that can help you find tons of positions. Personally, I favor the Pigeon’s, Warrior’s, and Frog’s poses on top of the basic front fold in order to free up my legs after a heavy workout or a long day on my feet. Try them out!
3. Cardiovascular Exercise
Probably not the first thing that you want to do if you’re legs are sore, but this is a crucial way to pump blood in and out of your fatigued muscles.
Engaging in cardio not only increases your heartrate and subsequent blood delivery during exercise, but also causes your vasculature to dilate for a small period afterward… especially in the limbs that were most active during the exercise. This allows for a more effective and continued cycling of blood through tissues that are trying to rebuild.
So in other words… keep your butt moving!
When you plan a cardio recovery workout, don’t over-do it and go light on the resistance or intensity… this isn’t another hardcore leg workout!
It is also wise to try and target an exercise type that utilizes the muscle that are most sore. For sore quads and glutes, I hit up the bicycle… but explore what’s best for you and your body. Shoot for a maximum heart rate of around 50% of your age predicted maximum (HRmax), which can be calculated by the following:
HRmax = 208 – (0.7 x Age)
So don’t let DOMS put you out of commission! Next time you decide to go a little harder at the gym, try these three super easy exercise ideas in order to shorten your recovery time!