Exercise is an important part of physical and mental health, but maintaining a workout routine over the winter holidays can be challenging. Along with all the distractions of the holidays, as temperatures get colder and barometric pressure in the air changes, winter workouts can leave muscles, tendons, and ligaments even more sore. This means exercise recovery techniques that soothe the body and mind from holiday stress can be especially important in the winter months. Here is our guide to the top five recovery techniques you can do from home for the body and mind:
1. Hot and cold therapy
Using hot and cold therapy is one of the best all-natural methods for pain relief in sore muscles. Particularly in the winter months, soreness can be exacerbated by the cold air all around, so using a method like a heating pad on problem areas can help. In places that are especially sore, try a heating pad or cold pack. When deciding between hot and cold, go with whatever helps soothe the pain most, or try both hot and cold. If you don’t have a heating pad you can warm a water bottle in the microwave. If you don’t have a cold pack, you can try a frozen water bottle wrapped in a thick cloth to press against sore muscles for about fifteen minutes at a time. This works for sore muscles or even mild injuries.
2. Epsom salt baths
Taking a hot bath is a great way to calm the body and mind. Hot baths can be a great way to relax and unwind after a stressful day and let sore muscles take a break, but there are other benefits, too. Once you get out of the bathtub, the water on your skin evaporates and your temperature drops. Hot baths just before bedtime can promote deeper sleep because this small drop in temperature prepares the body for rest. When it comes to epsom salts, they’re a popular way to recover, although the science is unclear on whether the salt itself helps or it’s just the hot water. It’s possible small amounts of magnesium are absorbed through the skin in the bath–though this has not been proven. Still, using salts, bubble bath, and candles is a great way to add ambiance to your bath.
The pandemic has made it difficult to get professional massages for many people, but a massage can be a huge stress relief and a welcome treatment for sore muscles. For people who want to try massage from home, buying a home massager is one option to help relax that can offer all-natural pain relief if practiced regularly. Rolling the body on top of a foam roller or tennis ball is another great way to relieve pressure and tightness in the muscles, especially in large muscles like the thighs. When rolling on a foam roller or tennis ball, be sure to avoid rolling directly on the joints.
4. Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that anyone can do from the exercise mat, couch, or bed as you fall asleep. To try progressive muscle relaxation, begin by taking a few slow deep breaths until you start to feel more calm. Then, begin in your toes to visualize the muscles of your feet relaxing more and more. If you want, you can envision them being bathed in light or heat. Then, slowly scan up your body in your mind. Go from your legs to your torso, your arms, your neck, your face and head, and finally allow your whole body to feel more relaxed. This exercise recovery technique can be used to reduce psychological stress and help you fall asleep as well.
5. Home yoga
Restorative yoga is a great way to help sore muscles recover from a difficult workout, and there are so many free yoga guides you can try online from home. One of the best recovery moves you can try is legs-up-the-wall pose. To do this pose, lay on your back with your legs resting on a vertical surface such as a wall and take a few slow deep breaths. When you lower your legs after holding the pose for a while, notice how much more relaxed the muscles are. This can be an especially great way to get some exercise recovery after running or cycling. Starting the day with some gentle yoga can be a great way to warm up your muscles in the morning.