by Melanie Brohm, B.Sc., RMT
Welcome back to our 3-part series on Muscle Soreness! If you've read the first part, you will have learned a lot of information about muscle soreness. The good news is that there are many ways to prevent and manage muscle soreness. Many of these tools are simple and already incorporated in with Yvonne’s Fitness.
The Warm Up No matter what the activity, you should warm up the body. This can range between 5-15 minutes depending on the intensity and length of the workout to follow. The movements are a preview of what is coming next. It is the foundational building blocks that often appear simple but prepare for more complex steps to come later. Mentally, the warm up allows you to assess how you feel, clear your mind and set a goal – what do you want to achieve in this session? Are you comfortable? Are your shoelaces tied properly? Are there any areas of the body that might need modification or a challenge? Are the steps familiar or are they new and require more concentration on form and execution? Are you fatigued and need to take it easier on yourself? Remember that showing up for any workout is better than no workout at all. The act of being social – either in person or online – has positive benefits. Physically, the warm up helps prepare the body as the heart rate and breathing rate slowly increase to allow for efficient function of the heart, blood vessels and lungs. This improves blood circulation, increases body and muscle temperature, reduces the load on the heart. It safely improves flexibility with the length-tension relationship of the muscles and reduces risks of muscle injuries and spasms. Breathing is also important. This is trending in the fitness and rehabilitation - with buzz words like “functional breathing” and “breathing coaches” and “The BREATHE Certification” becoming popular. It is also popular among runners, especially barefoot runners, to train with the mouth tapped shut to force nasal breathing. In general, with cardio, breathe in through your nose, filling your belly with air, and out through your mouth. You should be able to carry a conversation with relative ease. With strength training exercises, breathe out through your mouth when the muscle is contracting or shortening and breathe in through your nose when the muscle is lengthening. Yvonne and her team are great at giving cues. The most important part is to NOT hold your breath - remember to breathe!
The Cool Down The cool down is extremely important to any style of workout. Stopping an intense activity abruptly can lead to heart palpitations, dizziness and fainting with a sudden drop in blood pressure (www.heart.org). Add in the temperature change of a classic Winnipeg winter and one is asking for injury. Like the warm up, this can range from 5-15 minutes. An active cool down, sometimes called a warm down, involves slowing the pace of the activity. A passive cool down involves different types of stretching. Most cool downs include a combination of the two. There may also be a final meditation where you can reflect on what you have just accomplished. Physically, the cool down helps you gradually return to your resting heart rate, slows your breathing to baseline, slowly lowers your blood pressure to baseline, slowly reduces body temperature. Notice the key word here is SLOWLY! Failing to cool down properly actually increases your recovery time – hello DOMS! This will also reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of future workouts since you won’t be at your full potential.
Hydration (www.hsph.harvard.edu www.verywellfit.com) Drinking enough water is important for many reasons – to regulate body temperature, optimal organ functions, improve sleep quality, thought processes. When one is physically active, we need to drink more water to replace what is lost through sweating and breathing. There are many factors to consider with how much one needs to drink. Generally, it is 1⁄2 - 2/3 your weight in lbs will give the amount of water in ounces as a daily requirement. One should drink another 8 ounces for every 15 minutes of strenuous exercise (www.bodybuilding.com) Other factors include age, gender, body composition, medications, etc. It is generally recommended to drink before exercise, ideally small amounts up to 4 hours before activity starts. Drink small amounts of water during activity along with your rest breaks. After the activity, rehydrate throughout the day. This will change with the intensity of the workout, exercising in heat like in warmer weather, humidity, or at higher altitudes. If you are thirsty, it is time to hydrate! It doesn’t have to be just plain water – it can include water flavoured with fruits of vegetables, eating high water content fruits or vegetables. When electrolytes are also needed with activities greater than 90minutes, high heat or humidity are factors, consider coconut water, pickle juice, Pedialyte, smoothies, etc. One of my personal favourites to determine hydration is the Pee Test. No, I am not kidding – look at your pee. If you pee frequently and the colour is clear to almost clear – you are hydrated. If you are more than a mellow yellow, time to give your doctor a hello. Yes, I say this to my massage clients. Note that certain medications, vitamins and supplements will darken the colour. Just like certain foods will change the urine colour and smell.
Food as Fuel The topic of food is always controversial and there is so much misinformation out there. The research is not conclusive so it can be manipulated to serve the message that a product wants to promote. Plus, most research studies and medicine focus on white males and the effects on white males. Frustrating, isn’t it?? Even government promoted food guides are influenced by those financially backing the project. So, what is one person supposed to do? Build your team of trusted health care practitioners – you doctor, registered nurse, registered dietician, naturopath, etc. Ask for proof of qualifications. Question if one pushes a product that they personally benefit. (Thank you, Dr. Jen Gunther, Winnipeg born, OBGYN rebel against misinformation)
What we do know – protein is good. Consuming protein during endurance exercise appears to reduce the markers of muscle damage and reported DOMS 12-24hrs post exercise (International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise | Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition | Full Text (biomedcentral.com) )
What we do know – Omega 3’s are good. Omega 3’s increase EPA and DHA levels in the blood that reduce markers associated with the inflammatory process – which can result in reducing the effects of DOMS (The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on the Inflammatory Response to eccentric strength exercise - PubMed (nih.gov))
What I am personally holding onto – caffeine is good (but not near bedtime) – I know not really a food. For some of us, coffee is life. I thank my Italian colleagues for introducing me to the luxuriousness of an afternoon double espresso. Caffeine has the potential to reduce DOMS with a proposed mechanism adenosine receptor function blocker...in plain language reduces inflammation. (The effect of caffeine ingestion on delayed onset muscle soreness - PubMed (nih.gov), Caffeine attenuates delayed-onset muscle pain and force loss following eccentric exercise - PubMed (nih.gov))
What we suspect – polyphenols are probably good even if the research isn’t consistent. Polyphenol rich foods include berries, pomegranates, dark chocolate, black and green tea, flax seed, capers, olives, a variety of nuts and spices like cloves, thyme, rosemary. Most of the research focuses on tart cherry juice. The functions of polyphenols are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which can help reduce DOMS (The effect of pomegranate juice supplementation on strength and soreness after eccentric exercise - PubMed (nih.gov), Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial - PubMed (nih.gov))
The focus is on food – seek guidance if you are considering or are using supplements like BCAA, EAA, multivitamins, vitamin D, etc. Eat a variety of foods. Healthy eating involves a mix of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Eat what you like. Don’t force yourself to eat foods you don’t like. Listen to your body’s cues. Just like hydration, food consumption is based on many factors, including age, diagnosed conditions, religion, culture, food availability, food affordability, food allergies and so much more.
This blog is part 2 in a 3-part series about Muscle Soreness. Stay tuned for the final part!
*Melanie Brohm B.Sc., RMT of Brohm Therapeutic Massage is a highly-educated Registered Massage Therapist, and also a long-time Zumba/Yoga participant at Yvonne's Fitness. If you would like to learn more about what she does, or find out about her services, you can find her online here.