Recovering from a Hard Workout

Not all of us are Olympic Athletes. We can’t spend endless hours training and working out; however, we still can follow sound principles of health that allow us to perform at OUR top rate.

Exercise is essential for building and maintaining muscle and for keeping your heart healthy and strong. The truth is that even top athletes have to deal with the aftermath of a good workout, and that includes increased soreness and stiffness in the joints for a few days afterward. A good workout recovery is just as important as the workout itself.

For most people, that pain is enough to keep them from working out in any capacity again, at least until the soreness is gone. There are ways to beat that soreness before it sets in so that you can follow a daily or every other day workout plan without having to push through too much pain.

Be More Active During the Day

One of the recommendations for working at your top performance is to increase the amount of activity you perform steadily. If you plateau in your work out you’re never going to get better. Progress will stop. So one of the most important things you can do is to increase what you’re already doing. So if you sit on the couch most of the day, go for a walk, ride a bike or watch those silly ladies on television and do aerobics with them.

A healthy person should get 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. Or, if you are able, you could do 15-20 minutes of vigorous exercise every day. If you can, you should strength train at least twice a week. 

Fueling Your Body During the Day

Of course, along with exercise goes a healthy diet. If you are not fueling your body right, it won’t work right. It’s like your mother said. “Eat your fruits and vegetables, and you’ll grow up big and strong like Superman.”

Don’t Forget The Warm Up

Give your muscles are a head’s up that they are about to be used. If you jump into workout mode without any warm-up activity, you will be at risk for injuries and strains. Warming up is easy and will only take a few extra minutes. All you need to do is give your muscles a warning signal with a three-minute jog or two minutes of jumping jacks.

Stay Hydrated

Keeping your body hydrated is essential to your muscles and joints being able to handle whatever exercise you are engaging in. Ignoring the need for water during a workout will lead to pain and could lead to overheating during a workout. 

During an especially long or hard exercise session, a sports drink with electrolytes will keep your muscle glycogen levels up and help keep you from crashing.

Cool Down

Just as warming up is necessary, so is cooling down. After a good hard workout, your muscles are set at a high level 10 for intensity, and to stop that intensity and go back to 0 will confuse your muscles. You need to engage in a 3-5 minute cool-down routine. You can jog or do something else that is low impact. Doing this will help to relieve your system of a portion of the lactic acid, your workout has evoked and given you a better chance at avoiding stiffness.

Post Workout Nutrition

Your body has just worked itself to the point of shortness of breath and tingling limbs. Now it is time to give it what it needs to repair and manage the slight trauma it has just endured. Protein, healthy fats, and other important nutrients give your muscle tissue what it needs to rebuild. Eating lean proteins and whole-grain carbohydrates after working out will work to repair and rebuild muscles, and some studies indicate that eating these foods after a workout can help you to experience a reduction in soreness.

There are several protein shakes and plant based protein powders that claim to give you the perfect ratio of nutrients for your post-workout nutrition needs. But if you don’t want to get that fancy, good, old fashioned chocolate milk or a cup of greek yogurt can do the trick. It’s tastier than most protein powder, and includes protein, carbs, and fats. 


An often overlooked part of working out is the rest between workouts. Part of the reason that beginners quit is that they push themselves to the point that their body breaks down, and it’s painful to work out. It’s normal for cells to break down when you begin exercising, and it’s good for you. You’ll rebuild the muscle and be stronger for it. But people don’t want to be in pain!

Getting a good rest between workouts is just as important as working out. Making sure that your body is adequately hydrated and making sure that you carve enough time out of your schedule to sleep are two ways to recover during workouts. 

Sleep is the time when your body works hardest to repair itself. Getting a full six to eight hours of sleep each night is another way to keep muscles better prepared for a workout so you can avoid those strains.

Post-Workout Massage

Many athletes get sports massages after a hard workout. But you don’t need to be a world-class athlete to benefit from this kind of post-workout treat. Massages focus on the muscles and give them another avenue for distressing and loosening. Massages help speed muscle recovery and can reduce swelling and alleviate pain in tender muscles.

Ice Bath

Some regular exercisers claim that soaking their sore muscles in an ice bath post-workout works wonders. The theory suggests the immediate constriction of blood vessels after a hard workout will decrease metabolic activity and reduce swelling and tissue breakdown.

Active Recovery

While an ice bath and massage may help, most experts agree that active recovery is more effective. This starts with the cool-down process but continues through the next day. Moving stiff and sore muscles helps loosen them up and alleviate the pain. The day after a hard workout, yoga, walking, swimming, a leisurely bike ride, or other light cardio can be beneficial. Just don’t push it. Keep it easy, so your muscles can have a chance to recover.