Any form of intense muscle training results in micro-trauma lesions in your muscle tissue. Boxers usually undergo rigorous training that involves intense workouts targeting almost all the muscles in the body; since it is a contact sport there is the risk of additional stress and trauma to muscle tissues. Athletes often experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as a result of over training.
Irrespective of whether you are a professional athlete or an amateur one, you must follow an effective muscle recovery regimen for getting the best out of your training. This will improve your overall health and prevent muscular injuries associated with over training.
10 Step Guide to Achieve Optimum Muscle Recovery
Step 1: Always Start a Workout With Warm-Up Exercises
Often, to save time, people skip their warm up exercises and begin with their workout routine right away.
This is especially dangerous for a high-intensity sport like boxing. Begin with a light jogging or treadmill routine, followed by static and dynamic stretching, and end with shadow boxing practice.
This will prepare all your muscles for the workout session and minimize muscle strain, which in turn will lead to a shorter muscle recovery period.
Step 2: Always End a Workout With Cooling Down Exercises
Post-workout cooling exercises help reduce muscle strain and initiate the muscle recovery process. Do a few rounds on a stationary bike and some static stretching to allow your heartbeat to slow down steadily and prevent muscle soreness. This set of light exercises also helps your body to flush out toxins.
Step 3: Space Your Workout Sessions Judiciously
Over training can lead to injury and even permanent damage to muscle tissues. There should be regular gaps between intense training sessions, especially for beginners.
Make sure you have a 24 to 48 hours gap between high-intensity workouts so that the micro lesions in your muscles can heal. Also, take a few days off, after 3 to 4 weeks of continuous training.
Step 4: Take an Ice Bath
An ice bath or simply applying an ice pack on sore body parts will reduce inflammation and sooth the pain caused by the micro-trauma in muscles. It will also tighten the blood vessels and quicken the muscle recovery process.
Applying a cold compress might feel painful initially; however, after a while it will reduce muscle swelling and provide relief from the aches and pains.
Step 5: Use Wet Heat to Heal Sore Muscles
If your gym has a steam room, then you can incorporate a steam bath into your post-workout routine.
Or, you can simply have a hot water bath after a vigorous workout session. Wet heat increases sweating which flushes out toxins and waste products from your body. It also reduces pain.
Some athletes opt for a “Contrast Water Therapy” where they alternate cold compress and hot compress to take advantage of both these techniques.
Step 6: Use Massages and Alternative Relaxation Therapies
Professional athletes usually opt for deep massage therapy to facilitate muscle recovery after intense workout and competitive sports events.
Medical research proves that massages help in reducing muscle soreness and quicken the muscle recovery process. Some studies show that they even reduce inflammation.
Today several alternative therapies have gained popularity, such as hot stone massages and aroma therapies. These relax your body and help you to recover from physical and mental stress.
Step 7: Do Light Cross Training Between Your Workout Sessions
Training only in the boxing gym can become repetitive and boring. If you workout too frequently in the boxing gym, the high-intensity workout can leave you drained and damage your muscles.
However, you also need to work your muscles in between workout sessions to keep them strong. The best solution to this is cross training.
As mentioned earlier, you need sufficient gap between boxing training sessions. During this break, you can try some alternative light training forms such as yoga, swimming, light aerobics, and cycling. This will improve your blood circulation, stretch the sore muscles, and help your muscles to gain strength and recover.
By introducing some variety and change in your exercise routine, you will feel both psychologically and physically refreshed.
Step 8: Stretch Your Muscles to Improve Elasticity
Sometimes after a particularly heavy sparring session, you might feel that some specific muscles have become sore and tender. Instinctively, you might avoid using these muscles. However, this will make the sore muscles stiffer.
Instead, you must stretch those sore muscles to keep them supple and elastic. Begin each day with a stretching routine. Do 3 sets of 5 stretches and hold each stretch for 8 to 10 seconds. Make sure that you stretch all the muscles that feel sore.
Resistance bands can provide resistance to stretch and strengthen your muscles. If you choose to do this, I highly recommend Bodylastics Resistance Bands for their high quality construction.
Step 9: Follow a Nutrition-Rich Diet Aimed at Muscle Recovery
What you eat and drink before and after your workout session plays an important role in your muscle recovery. Athletes who are involved in strenuous workouts need to take special care to restore the glycogen, fluids, and protein lost during long workout sessions.
A) Adequate Hydration
Boxers usually do high-intensity exercises during a workout session. This results in heavy sweating which reduces the body’s water and electrolyte levels.
To replenish their body’s fluid content, boxers must consume a lot of water or sports drinks (containing water and electrolytes) before and immediately after their workout session.
B) Restoring Glycogen and Proteins
Intense exercise is fueled by glycogen stored in the liver and muscles and through blood glucose. Often the body also uses proteins to produce energy during prolonged exercise.
Immediately after exercise, the body becomes receptive to the hormone insulin which is responsible for transporting glycogen and proteins to the muscles and liver.
So to balance the loss of proteins and glycogen, you should have a carbohydrate and protein rich meal within two hours of an intense workout sessions. This meal can include food such as cornflakes, egg white, soya milk, lentils, white meat, boiled potatoes, dry fruits, and bread.
Your daily diet should also be rich in proteins, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. This will strengthen your immune system and help your body to heal faster.
Step 10: Get Adequate Sleep
All individuals need sleep for their body to replenish its energy. Sleep deprivation can hinder muscle recovery by increasing the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in your body.
For peak performance, all athletes must have nine to ten hours of sleep when they are experiencing muscle strain. This is because during sleep the release of growth hormones, which help in the recovery of sore muscles, increases.
Written by: Seema Misra
To get the most out of your training, I highly recommend the following articles:
► How to Increase Punching Power
► 10 Tips to Improve Boxing Footwork
► Boxing Basics
► Top 10 Best Heavy Punching Bags
► Top 10 Best Boxing Gloves