Tips for protecting your muscles and joints.
“No pain, no gain.” Anyone who’s been to a CrossFit gym has likely heard this, more than once. And, there’s an element of truth to it. But when it comes to protecting your muscles and joints, how much pain is too much? Let’s answer that question and set you up with tips to WOD safer this year.
If you find yourself feeling sore after leaving the gym, you’re not alone. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) generally occurs 24-48 hours post workout and is most likely to occur after introducing a new training stimulus. CrossFit athletes are especially susceptible to this, as we are constantly challenging ourselves with new workouts.
Why a little muscle soreness is a good thing
DOMS is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it means your muscles are undergoing repair and are on their way to getting bigger and stronger. Eccentric contractions in particular, like lowering into a squat, pushup position or lunge, cause micro-tears in your muscles. That’s the pain you feel. It’s also why you may experience joint soreness or a limited range of motion following a workout.
Signs of overtraining
While most of us accept DOMS as a natural part of the fitness process, it’s important to know where to draw the line between DOMS and overtraining. You should visit a physician and decrease training if:
- DOMS extends beyond 72 hours into the 96-hour range
- You experience excessive swelling in your limbs
- Your urine becomes dark or discolored
Remember, when in doubt, consult a qualified medical professional before trying to push through the pain.
Tips for CrossFit muscle and joint protection
Increase your flexibility
Stretching pre and post workout should be already be a part of your daily CrossFit routine. If not, it’s time to incorporate it. While it won’t prevent DOMS, it will help protect your muscles and joints over the long term. Stiff joints tend to cause muscle swelling due to disproportionate distribution of forces. Stay healthy by warming up all muscle groups with dynamic stretching ahead of time.
Go easy on extra sore muscles
The best way to avoid injury is to listen to your body. If your muscles are already sore, don’t just hop on the rack and try to lift to failure. Instead, alternate muscle groups and try to find a better balance between low and high-impact exercises. There’s no shame in putting your health first.
Wear the right shoes
What you put on your feet matters. Especially if you’re intent on really killing that WOD. The ideal shoe for CrossFit should provide stability for lifting, comfort for running and a secure grip for jumping. Don’t cut corners. Spend a little extra for a quality shoe designed specifically for CrossFit and cross training.
Ice after working out
Stop inflammation in its tracks by icing sore muscles and joints following a workout. Even if you’re not in pain, it’s not a bad idea to ice your knees, ankles, elbows or shoulder joints. Proper pre-care can prevent injury later.
Eat foods that minimize inflammation
Instead of throwing down an Aleve or Ibuprofen every time your muscles start to ache, consider adding two-for-one foods like avocados, berries, ginger, kale and spinach to your diet, as they are proven to lower inflammation and improve energy levels.
Supplement with fish oil
Did you know fish oil supplements that are high in Omega-3s EPA and DHA and can help prevent joint pain by increasing mobility? While there is no recommended daily allowance for fish oil, aim for 1,000 mg to 1,200 mg a day. And just like the shoes on your feet, quality counts. Pay more for a quality product from a trusted manufacturer.
Tell Your Friends
One of the greatest benefits of doing CrossFit is the community you build with your fellow gym rats. Do your part and pass this article along to your friends and fellow CrossFitters. Share it on Facebook or Twitter, and then let us know how incorporating these tips into your daily routine has helped alleviate muscle and joint soreness.