High-intensity interval training is notorious for being the exercise that leaves you sore after a workout. It intentionally challenges different muscle groups. Each workout is high-intensity, and each WOD (workout of the day) is different from the last.
As HIIT athletes, we can probably all agree that a little a little bit of soreness after a grueling WOD is rewarding (“feel the burn”). We also know that by minimizing soreness after a workout we are helping ourselves function more comfortably in our daily life and—more importantly—putting ourselves in a position to maximize our next workout.
It’s important to understand why we get sore in the first place. Soreness after a HIIT workout occurs when you push your body harder than it’s used to, use muscle groups it doesn’t necessarily use on a regular basis, or perform a movement with greater intensity or for a longer duration than your body is used to. In other words, it can occur from basically any WOD ever, since highly-varied, high-intensity workouts are basically the point of HIIT.
These varied, higher-intensity workouts sometimes cause micro-tears in your affected muscles. Don’t worry, these tears are usually perfectly normal and harmless. As they heal, they’re typically healing in a way that your muscle stronger and less susceptible subsequent tears.
However, these micro-tears are also thought to cause Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (or DOMS). This soreness can last from 2-3 days or even as long as a week. Read more about DOMS in this our recent article: 6 Myths about Sore Muscles After a Workout
How can you help ease the soreness after a HIIT workout and help speed up your muscle recovery?
Tools such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls against the wall or floor, sticks, and other mobility tools help provide a deep tissue massage that can increase blood flow to your sore muscles.
Increased blood flow is important for the recovery portion of muscle repair because blood transports the nutrients and oxygen your muscles need to rebuild and recover. This increased blood flow can also help flush out some of the toxins thought to be released by the micro-tears in your muscles that cause some of the muscle soreness after a workout.
Heat or Cold—and Alternating the Two
Cold temperatures like a cold bath or a cold compress can help reduce inflammation by decreasing blood flow. It can also numb sore tissues which slows down the transmittance of pain messaging to the brain.
Heat will dilate blood vessels, promoting blood flow, which can help encourage muscle recovery by delivering vital oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. It can also help tightened muscles relax, and is considered psychologically reassuring which can enhance its analgesic properties.
Alternating the two is thought to be especially effective in treating sore muscles after HIIT or any other workout because of the combination of pain-reducing cold and blood flow-increasing heat.
If you haven’t tried WOD Relief Muscle Rub yet, then now might be a good time to give it a go! WOD Relief has intense heating and cooling effects created from over 40mL of essential oils (8x more essential oils than other post-workout recovery rubs). It is long-lasting and absorbs quickly so you can confidently slather it on before or after any workout to loosen up your muscles, increase blood flow, and soothe muscle soreness.
Sleep and Downtime Between Workouts
Getting plenty of sleep and resting your body is one of the most effective ways to recover from sore muscles after a workout. Your body does its most efficient recovery when you are asleep.
This one goes without saying. Water helps flush toxins from your body and helps your body more effectively heal sore muscles.
Yoga or Athlete Mobility Classes
Not only can yoga or athlete mobility classes increase flexibility and strength that can help prevent injury, but they are also effective in increasing blood flow to sore muscles to aid in recovery. Yoga or mobility classes are also considered good “active recovery” workouts between HIIT workouts to gently increase blood flow without overworking your muscles.
While there’s no fast and easy remedy to magically heal sore muscles, these tricks (combined with proper nutrition) can help ease muscle soreness after a workout and help your sore muscle recover more quickly.