By Sam Martin
I want to take a break from the “make me do stuff” challenge in Northern Sweat for a couple of reasons–the main one being that we can’t talk about exercise without also emphasizing recovery time. The column editors before me have outlined great ways to stay motivated, and we’re talking about activities currently in progress, but I’ve yet to touch base on what to do when you’re hurting! Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is a real pain (hohoho). Thanks to adrenaline and endorphins, sometimes we can run/lift/board through an injury thinking that we’re fine. In doing so, we run the risk of being out of commission even longer, which obviously doesn’t help anyone.
The second reason I want to write about recovery time, as well as how to overcome soreness and stiffness, is because I banged myself up pretty good snowboarding last week. Ever since then, I’ve been both sore and stiff, while trying some home remedies to get me back on track before I get back on the board.
Here’s a masterpost of remedies and recovery tricks you can use at home with things you probably have at hand already!
- Epsom salt (舎利塩 / しゃりえん): Take a warm bath with this bad boy in your water! Apparently, epsom salts is another name for magnesium sulfate, which I did not know until I went on jisho.org to find the Japanese. Magnesium relaxes muscles, and when paired with salts for a drying soak, the two can reduce pain and inflammation.
- Moving it: “But Sam, you just said it was easy to worsen an injury if you keep trying to do what you’re doing! And that’s not good!” Yes. You’re right. But light movement like stretching* or walking or swimming can loosen tense muscles and keep blood flowing. If you’re sore from a wicked set of squats, doing some light walking could get that stiffness out enough for you to be able to sit without feeling like your legs are gonna fall off.
- Massage: Whether you get someone to do it for you, or have a foam roller to help yourself massage the pain away, increasing blood flow to the area you’re having stiffness in will help loosen it right up. Be careful, though, to not dig in too deeply into sore knots of muscle, because scarring can build up within your tissues. Be gentle, be slow, and don’t force yourself to apply pressure directly on the sore muscle.
- Hot Pepper Rubs: This is not a cross over from Nom Nom Tabemono, although it sounds like it could be. Apparently hot peppers have something in them called capsaicin, which makes them spicy. This substance can reduce joint and muscle pain, and also make you smell like a delicious salsa. You can buy over-the-counter creams in the states, but apparently you can also make your own by mixing 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper with one cup of olive or (warm) coconut oil, then applying it like a lotion**. Here’s a link to a more involved recipe, too. Don’t forget to wash your hands after this! We don’t want you to be blind on top of muscle-sore if you just so happen to touch your eyes afterwards.
- Rest: Turn up that heater just a tad, stretch out under the kotatsu, and nap it off. Let your body heal!
- Hot compresses: At our eikaiwa the other day, a couple of our Japanese friends were talking about heating salt and wrapping it in cloth to use as a warm compress around the neck. I found a simple step-by-step here. You can also put uncooked rice in a sock, and heat that in the microwave. An Ajigasawa beauty just recently figured out that heated menthol stick-on patches, which you can buy at conbini, work WONDERS on a sore neck. Whether with an electric blanket on low, a moist washcloth heated gently in the microwave, ora warm hand, hot compresses can almost always do the trick.
- Cold compresses (or maybe not): Don’t know whether to ice or heat? Icing is used to bring down swelling from an injury, not for muscle soreness. Chances are you don’t need to ice your soreness unless you know for sure that you tore a muscle and are icing it right after it happens. Read through this article for more information and to prevent injuring yourself during self-treatment***.
Good luck on your recovery. I know I’m going to be mixing and matching, treating my body all gentle-like, so that I can go back out there and show the mountain who’s boss!
* There are several schools of thought on whether stretching is good or bad; best done pre- or post-workout; a saving grace or a useless waste of energy. Basically, listen to your body and don’t push it when in recovery mode. Just try to stretch out stiff muscles a bit at a time; the idea is to get them moving so they are not stiff anymore.
** Please spot test so that you don’t find out you’re allergic to capsaicin after rubbing it all over your sore knee.
*** As always during self-treatment, please see a doctor for any injuries or long-lasting pain. Good Morning Aomori and our editors do not want you to injure yourself further by trying to heal at home instead of getting it checked out. Please, don’t be stubborn (we know how much of a pain it is to go to the clinic). We love you and don’t want you hurt.
**** Since the typing of this article, I tried a few of the remedies and got myself all not-sore in time to go back out and practice. Let me tell you, these WORK! My favorite was the heating pad combined with foam roller. Felt soooooo good!
If you have any tips or tricks for speedy recovery post-workout, or ways to prevent injury while working out, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and look for them in the next issue!