We have all gone through this: a wobbly walk post leg day at the gym, or a core workout that has led to so much soreness that even laughing is painful. True, that soreness gets better with time and as you get used to the movements, it is important to let those muscles recover first before popping a painkiller.
It is vital to focus on rest and recovery. Not just for you to mentally recharge yourself to let your muscles repair themselves. This lets you go back and perform better than you would on tired muscles. There are obviously some basic ways to let the muscles recover—use an ice bath, sleep for at least eight hours, eat proper food with a good amount of protein, hydrate well. But along with these, you can also use some tools to help in your recovery journey. Let’s look at a few of the ones I have been using.
Massage gun: A massage gun basically makes the muscles vibrate at a high frequency. All massage guns use the same percussive therapy, heating up your muscles and helping more blood to flow to the area under stress. Vibration therapy has been known to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and regain flexibility. DOMS is basically the soreness you feel after you have done a workout, such as stiffness in your legs a few hours or even a day after doing squats.
The good thing about the massage gun is that you can use it any time you want. I used the Flexgun, which was compact enough to fit into not just the gym bag, but even a purse—making it very easy to carry around. And unlike the heavier models available, this one seemed to make less noise. Not attention-seeking and therefore you can peacefully do your massage while sitting at the corner of your gym if you so please.
The Flexgun comes with four attachment heads—bullet head for deep massage on a particular spot, a U-shaped head for sensitive neck and spine area, a ball head for overall massage (my favourite) and a flat head for large muscle groups. It is easy to switch between the heads and can be used depending on which area you are massaging. Also, you can choose to increase the pressure by switching between four intensities. For example, the hamstrings can withstand more pressure, so I used a higher intensity (usually limiting it at 3) on them, while on my neck I used only the lowest intensity available.
Keep in mind, however, that not every area of your body can be massaged. There are sensitive nerve endings which should be left alone. Same for bones and joints, any part which may have bruising, cuts or even impaired sensation. It is a massage tool, but not something that can help you get out on an injury, so make sure to not use it on any sprains or swelling. A good way to start will be to use it on large muscles for a minute or two, though the Flexgun can run for 15 minutes non-stop (and up to 8 hours on a single charge). Overuse can lead to inflammation, so be careful how you use it and how much pressure you put. The only thing I think which should be added to the Flexgun is a module, or even a link to how-to videos to understand which muscle requires what sort of a massage, the direction of msssage and the intensity. Flexnest Massage Gun, ₹4,999, available at theflexnest.com
Foam Roller: A foam roller is one of the most common recovery tools available in any gym and is widely used by athletes. The roller utilises a self-myofascial release technique. The fascia is a layer of fibrous tissue that surrounds the muscles and helps the muscles move smoothly so you can be active. The fascia, however, can contract after a strenuous workout to protect the muscles from injury. Though there are only limited number of studies—and those too only done on a small sample—research has found that foam rolling can actually help in improving range of motion and decreasing soreness.
In an interview with Muscle And Fitness magazine, physical therapist John Rusin had said that foam rolling affects your brain’s ability to sense tightness or laxity in soft tissue, whether it’s a muscle, tendon, or fascia. But you need to know how to use the foam roller to get the most out of it. For the hamstrings, sit on the floor with legs stretched out over the foam roller. Keep the roller between the hip and knee, under your leg. Move forward and back. For the IT band, that runs outside of your leg from your pelvis to your knee, lie on your side with legs stretched out. Keep the roller between the bottom leg and floor and roll forward and back. For your lats, lie down flat, with the foam roller between your lat muscle and the floor. You can bend the legs to gain more balance and do the forward-back rolling motion. At any point, for any knots, stay in that position for a few more seconds. Muscle Roller, ₹1,099, available at myprotein.co.in
Resistance Bands: This is a one-stop solution for a hundred problems. You can use it for stretching and recovery, use it to warm up your joints before lifting, or use it for your rehab as you recover from injury. Don’t have weights but want strength work? Get a pair of resistance bands.
The bands come in various levels of resistance. I have mostly used the lighter bands for recovery as they help stretch large muscle groups. For example, loop the band around a bar at a height, and hold both ends of the band with one hand. Pull, with arm outstretched. Hold for 20-30 seconds on each hand. To stretch your hamstrings, lie down on the floor and loop the band around one foot. Straighten the leg slowly and keep a hold on the band with both hands. Again hold for 30 seconds on each leg. Pilates Resistance Bands, ₹199 (light), ₹299 (medium), and ₹399 (heavy), available at decathlon.in