How to prevent muscle stiffness after a workout
While you should never ignore your body's pain signals during or after a workout, a little delayed onset muscle soreness a few hours later, is often a good sign that your muscles have worked hard and are fatigued.
This also means that your muscles have reached full capacity during the exercise session and have formed tiny tears in your muscle fibers and surrounding connective tissue.
When to expect delayed onset muscle soreness:
- After suddenly increasing your workout length or intensity (over a week)
- After an intense high intensity interval workout (HIIT)
- After a hard weight training session - where you increase the reps or the weight, or both.
- After trying a new activity where you recruit different muscles. For example, if you're a regular runner, but play a game of tennis one week, you might feel sore and stiff due to the change in direction and range of motion, ie. side to side lunges versus the up and down motion of running.
The good news is that your muscles will get bigger and stronger as they heal, paving the way to your next level of fitness.
However, while muscle stiffness can be a sign of a hard, challenging workout, it's not necessary to see improvements. Regardless of whether you're stiff, your muscles are still getting stronger with each exercise you do.
My experience with muscle soreness and stiffness
I must be honest, I wasn't surpised when my recent DNA Sport Test revealed that I'm prone to inflammation and my body takes longer to bounce back after a hard workout. I've always struggled with muscle soreness and stiffness after a long or intense run, weight training session or new workout.
However, with rebounding, I find that my body recovers much faster, I retain less water and don't suffer from any muscle stiffness or soreness, even after teaching two intense classes a day! So, in this case, the old adage of "No pain, no gain" certainly isn't true. I'm the fittest, strongest and healthiest I've been in year thanks to the benefits of rebounding.
If you struggle with delayed onset muscle soreness, follow my tips and tricks to help you recover sooner:
Have regular massages
If you can afford it, regular massages are one of the best ways to soothe stiff, tired muscles. This is because massage helps to heat up the muscle and improve blood flow to the area, which also brings oxygen and healing nutrients to that part of the body. Plus, working out knots and trigger points in the muscles and tendons helps to increase your range of motion.
If your budget is a little tight, learn to massage your own muscles and apply a heat wrap to the area after exercise.
Alternate hard and easier workouts
While it's important to push yourself duirng a workou, try not to set any personal records for a few days while your body adapts and recovers from the previous hard session.
Rather do some light exercise such as walking or swimming as this will help to ease stiffness, reduce the build up of lactic acid and lower your chances of becoming injured. A light rebounding session is one of my favourite ways to to combat muscle soreness and stiffness. It also helps to eliminate toxins and speed up healing and repair through cell regeneration.
Delayed onset muscle soreness usually only affects the body parts that were worked, so you can work other muscle groups while letting the fatigued ones recover.
Taking a day off also gives your body a chance to repair itself and replenishes your energy. I would suggest doing light exercise the day after a heavy workout, and then taking off the next day. Rest and recovery are crucial parts of your fitness journey!
Always cool down
A cool down phase is important after your workout. Right before finishing, it can be really beneficial to include around 10 minutes of easy aerobic exercise, like walking or rebounding.
After a rebounding session, I like to incorporate some low-intensity cardio, followed by a pat-down, to drain the lymphatic system, plus some stretches. Stretching really helps to prevent stiffness and is one of my favourite ways to end a workout.
Don't give up
Research shows that muscle stiffness and soreness are some of the main reasons why people abandon a new exercise programme. But it's good to remember that your muscles get stronger with each workout. Don't let soreness demotivate you! The next time you do the activity, there will be less muscle tissue damage, less soreness, and a faster recovery period.
If you're worried - seek professsional advice
There's a big difference between moderate muscle soreness induced by exercise and muscle overuse or injury. If soreness prevents you from performing daily activities or you're in pain, then there's too much soreness.
See a professional if the soreness is extreme or persists longer than it should.