Recovery Strategies: decrease muscle soreness & speed up recovery

Muscle soreness results from mechanical damage to the muscle and biomechanical changes within muscle tissue. It's characterized by inflammation, pain, swelling, soreness, stiffness, and markers of muscle damage such as Creatine Kinase (CK) and Lactase Dehydrogenase (LDH). (NSCA)

(Bobby and one of his athetes repping our new T's.)

We all use different strategies to deal with muscle damage. Recovery just isn't the same as you hit certain landmarks in your age. I just turned 28, marking my entrance into my late 20's, and I'm beginning to realize maybe I need to be a little proactive with my recovery strategies. I'm going to be honest here; I still think I am indestructable and I still think I can workout all day long with no consequences. However, there is this little annoying reminder in the back (or front sometimes) of my brain telling me that I'm getting older and I need to be more careful. Let's take a look at some recovery strategies and how they apply to whatever age you are at right now - late teen's, early 30's, turning 80 this year or somewhere in between.


A few months ago, I went through a tough 2 months where I had some pretty severe knee pain and was misdiagnosed several times with a torn ACL. The final diagnosis by an Orothopaedic Surgeon was that I had Jumper's Knee (patella tendonitis) and I needed to STRETCH my quads more. I am very open on my opinion on static stretching. Most research shows very minimal gains in flexibility following weeks of static stretching, and I take those results to heart... meaning no stretching going on here. However, I have ALL of my athletes to a long dynamic warm-up before every workout. The time spent performing a dynamic warm-up depends on the age of the athlete. My younger athletes (7-11) can get by with some bear crawls, inch worms, groiners, and some straight leg raises. However, once my athletes start hitting puberty, we focus more on mobility - especially the hips and shoulders. To give you an idea of time, one of my clients who is in his late 60's spends around 30 minutes of his hour workout focusing on mobility. I would reccomend every decade you get older, add atleast 5 minutes of mobility to your workouts. That's 5 minutes of mobility work when your 10 or younger, 10 minutes when you are 10-20, 15 minutes in your 20's and so on. That's just a general guideline, but something to think about.

One easy way to see lack of hip mobility is to peform a side lunge (with or without a slider). You will oftentimes notice a huge difference between left and right sides, especially if they are a baseball/softball player. Bobby has pieces of tape stuck to the floor marking every 6 inches so he can see exactly how different each side is. 

This athlete has great hip mobility: Abby's side lunge

Below is one of our more advanced athletes after some mobility work - it's not easy stuff. 

Soft tissue work:

Researchers have some theories, but they don't know exactly why soft tissue work such as foam rolling works. But we do know that in general, it helps athletes move and feel better. It may hurt while doing the rolling, but afterwards movement seems to be much less impaired. All athletes are different, but most volleyball/baseball/softball athletes could use some myofascial release on their shoulder. Some of the trigger points: Pec minor, insertion of lat onto shoulder (backside of armpit), and around their scapula. We don't use foam rollers often, but instead use a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or softball/baseball.    

There are obviously many more spots that could use some myofascial release. Some big ones in the lower body are the glutes and IT band.  


Research tends to show that sleep-loss affects performance. Some studies reccommend as much as 9-10 hours of sleep to fully recover after difficult training sessions. Even a few days of lost sleep can increase markers of inflammation in the body, impair blood sugar regluation, increase cortisol levels, and worsen performance.  


We have covered ways to require physiologically, but it's also important to touch on psychological and emotional needs. I have traditionally not been very good at relaxing. I don't watch movies, I don't sit still well, and I don't do yoga well. My good friend Dawn Fletcher works with athletes on the mental side of training for their sport, and she tends to have some pretty good advice when it comes to emotional health. Check out her article on some simple tips on staying balanced. The picture below was Bobby and I's attempt at Strength Coaches doing Yoga. We failed miserably at any sort of meditation, but we definitely had some good laughs attempting to look like we are Yogi's. Emotionally recovering from a stressful week looks different for everyone... although we weren't one with the Yin and the Yang, we found lots of laughs did the trick for us.   



I get tired of talking about nutrition for the simple fact that there are TONS of "fitness" magazines and articles out there telling you what to eat or what not to eat. And the funny thing to me is that the fads just come and go like clothing styles. So when people tell me they only eat "Paleo" I wonder what type of diet they will have in a few years from now. And the best part is that they always ask me what I eat, and I say everything. Cereal? Yep, Lucky charms is my favorite. Dairy? Yep, cottage cheese for every breakfast. Non grass fed beef? Yep, I'm a strength coach, not a multi-millionaire. Fruit? Yep, all day long. It kills me when regular people think they are experts in this area.

I am not an expert, but I do follow research and how it relates to Sports Performance. All I am going to say about post-workout nutrition right now is that it's important. What's important? That you intake some calories immediately after a workout. It's reccommended to take 50-80 grams of carbohydrate and 15-20 grams of protein post workout. However you want to drink it, however you want to eat it, most importantly just get some calories in. 

Here's a couple more nutrition tidbits that could help with recovery:

Omega-3 Fatty acids: some research has shown decreased protein-inflamatory markers following consumption of Omega-3's. Fish oils are probably the most popular ways of increasing Omega-3's in your diet.

Caffeine: Interestingly enough, some studies have shown that carbohydrates ingested with caffeine following a workout can lead to increased muscle recovery. The studies used 5mg of caffeine per kg of body weight (I weigh 77 kg so that's 385 mg of caffeine) following a workout. That's a lot of caffeine, so this wouldn't be my personal choice for recovery.

Tart Cherry juice: There's been lots of research lately on tart cherry juice and recovery, and the results have shown cherries could accelerate muscle regeneration after damage. Pomegranate juice also has some benefits, but Tart cherry juice is even better. The problem for me is one serving of Tart cherry juice is around $3.00 = YIKES. The price of recovery can be quite pricey sometimes.

No matter what age you are, recovery is still important. Try to challenge yourself this week and pick 1 recovery strategy that you can focus on. To be honest, I think I'm going to see if Tart Cherry juice actually works and order myself some.    

Spano, Marie. NSCA Functional Foods, Beverages and Ingredients in Athletics. 
McHugh, Malachy. 2013 NSCA National Conference presentation: The role of cherry juice in accelerating recovery from exercise: Effects of inflammation, oxidative stress, and recovery from exercise.