How to prevent muscle soreness after a hard workout?

Questions about muscle soreness answered by Robert Forster, physical therapist, author, member of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, and trainer to 40 Olympic medalists and professional athletes from Allyson Felix to Flo Jo to Pete Sampras.

We get a lot of questions here in FBG Land about muscle soreness: how to prevent it, what to do if you have it and if working out sore is okay. So when we got the opportunity to ask Robert Forster we knew we had to hit him up for all the As to our muscle-soreness Qs. And so we did!

Interview with Robert Forster, Physical Therapist and Muscle-Soreness Guru

FBG: How do you help Olympic athletes recover from events? What’s your general protocol (or does it change according to activity and level of soreness)?

RF: Out of necessity, in the mid-1980s I created a program of “total support event coverage” for Jackie Joyner Kersee in her quest for gold in the Olympic heptathlon, which consists of seven events contested over two days. The program is anchored in science and based on the workings of human physiology. Now after every workout and competitive event all our athletes first consume nutrients and liquids to restore vital fuel for recovery. The athlete then performs a thorough cool down with jogging and walking to allow the body to flush out byproducts of muscle metabolism. This is followed by a static stretching routine designed to return the muscles to their normal resting length and “wring out” waste out of the muscle tissues and vascular system. Next is the recovery effort. I perform specific massage techniques designed to relax the muscles and further flush out the system. Finally ice therapy is applied to reduce inflammation and the micro swelling in the tissues that causes spasm and soreness so they are ready for their next event.

FBG: What can the everyday woman do to recover after a hard workout?

RF: Focus on recovery begins at the start of every workout. Pre-workout stretching and a thorough warm-up serves to limit the amount of tissue damage that is created during the workout and therefore the degree of recovery needed afterwards. After hard workouts, a cool down followed by stretching, self massage (or work on the foam roller) and icing, all serve to limit the delayed muscle soreness. The day following hard efforts should include low-intensity “active recovery” workouts. Much like the body’s “self cleaning oven,” these low-intensity workouts increase blood flow and further eliminate waste products in the tissue repair products and therefore enable the athlete to be ready for the next hard effort. Remember, no one gets fitter during workouts; it’s only with time for recovery that the benefits of hard work is realized with increased fitness.

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