Putting “road work” in preparing for a martial arts contest
Training for a marathon…
Hiking and seeing nature.
Bodybuilding and trying to “bring up” your legs.
Going on a back country trail hiking challenge over a few days…
Just enjoy running or cycling…
They all have the same big problem in common. You’re going to be faced with sore legs that don’t recover but you ask a lot out of them day after day. You can go to the gym, lift weights and hammer your legs hard for an hour then brag to your friends how you can’t walk for a few days, those same few days that you don’t train your legs.
But if your athletic endeavors are anything past purely aesthetics then you are going to need to prioritize your leg recovery and get rid of the muscle soreness.
Your legs can handle a large workload evolutionarily speaking but farming the land day after day requires less than intense Crossfit or triathlon training where you are trying to get bigger, stronger,faster and leaner legs.
Covering The Basics of Leg Recovery.
These are the bare bones minimum leg recovery techniques that you need to follow or you should be following if you want to perform at a high level.
While this isn’t a deep dive nutrition article, I highly advise the use of a low carb, high fat ketogenic type diet. The purpose here is to have you eating more protein for muscle recovery, more vegetables and fruits for micro nutrients to cover your nutrient basis and more healthy fats for hormone optimization.
I don’t want you to think I’m telling you to minimize carbohydrates. In reality I want you eat a good amount of them, roughly 100-200 grams depending on your size and goals, I just want them to come around your training time. You can be ketogenic and eat carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen. Carbs don't kick your out of ketosis.
A HUGE mistake a lot of athletes with constantly sore legs make is that they don’t eat enough carbohydrates. I want you to get them from good sources like sweet potatoes, yams, rices and even some ezekiel bread depending. Dark chocolate, more of that too.
The overall purpose of his meat based low carb paleo diet is to minimize inflammation while maximizing nutrients intake. You don’t need to obsessively follow this diet, 80% of the time will do.
Sleep always should be a priority. For a hard training athlete, every day is a chance to get better, increase your endurance or change your body fat to muscle ratio. Sleep is where your body gets into deep repair and optimized your hormonal health. Just one night of impaired sleep lowers glucose tolerance (your body can’t handle carbohydrates as efficiently), your cortisol rises (less muscle recovery), your whole body inflammation increases (your muscles stay sore) and you experience blood sugar dysregulation the next day (you end up needing and eating more carbohydrates).
None of this is good and it certainly won’t help your sore legs recover. You want to aim to sleep in a cold, dark room and get to bed at roughly the same time every night to build a pattern. Muscle grows with sleep , you won't recovery fully without focusing on your sleep routine.
You don’t have to view yourself as a professional athlete but if you get joy in getting after it and training daily, then you need to have a lifestyle aimed at those goals or your legs aren’t going to recovery optimally. You can dress up and go out with your friends but a late night after a long day of training or before one, isn’t the smartest idea. Not to mention that your diet will be off and your sleep pattern disrupted.
If you aren’t following a diet to support your training, sleeping good or enough to enhance your growth and generally living a goal driven lifestyle then your legs are going to be sore and your performance is just going to get worse and worse each day.
But if you’re doing all that, these next advanced techniques can really improve your leg recovery.
Advanced Techniques For Sore Legs
Now athletes never think of hydration as a performance enhancemer, rather, it’s something they just need to do. Hydration isn’t as easy as just “drinking more water”, increasing cellular hydration is a process of having the right minerals and electrolytes in your body at the same time.
There’s a lot of different hydration powders on the market, the key is to not get caught in the electrolyte-carb trap. Since electrolyte powders are traditionally an endurance sport supplement, they always come packed with large amount of blood sugar spiking carbohydrates that you just don’t need.
We want low body fat levels so get your carbs down. Eat them. Don’t take them from powders.
Generally speaking, most athletes lose sodium over all the other electrolytes. a simple fix is grinding some pink himalayan sea salt into your water. I’ll often sprinkle some into the afore mentioned hydration powders.
I also use the following two supplements.
Taurine, found in The Physique Formula All Natural BCAAS, increases the “charge” or pull of water toward muscle tissue.
Creatine monohydrate helps to “super saturate” a muscle cell. Not to mention it’s the most researched sports performance supplement of all time.
Getting cold increases post workout muscle recovery and reduces inflammation. This can be done by jumping into a cold lake, taking a cold bath or just a cold shower. Another tactic is to use a contrast shower which is just alternating periods of cold and hot water in the shower. Contrast showers work by increasing blood flow to sore muscle tissues which flushes out fatigue substrates (by products of working muscle tissue).
Eat More Carbs
I know I said earlier that you want to keep your carbohydrates to around 200 grams per day (again, a generic number in an article based on my experience) but if you are training hard daily and you find your legs are constantly too sore then more carbs might be the answer. There’s going to be a certain amount of decreased performance out of your legs but if they are so sore that you can’t perform even sub optimally, you might want to double your carbohydrates.
Bio Marker Testing
I recommend a variety of testing and it could give you a clue into why you are always sore. Personally, I’ve done genetic testing that shows my body has a tendency to have lower iron, b vitamin and vitamin D levels. Every time I get blood work down, guess what nutrients are low?
For me, when I add extra Vitamins B,D and iron into my diet I almost instantly perform better. You can get genetic testing, you can get advanced blood testing and you can even do the DUTCH urine test to determine your 24 hour hormone cycle. All of these provide insight into why your legs might not recovering fast enough.
Flexibility and Mobility.
I debated if I wanted to include this in the basics or advanced section. You should be performing flexibility and mobility drills for a minimum of 10 minutes every day. Identifying the key areas of your lower body will help you streamline your flexibility routine. I focus on the following stretches daily (just youtube search them).
Ankle Dorsiflexion mobility rocking
Calf lacrosse ball rolling
Lacrosse ball behind a bent knee
Kneeling Couch Stretch
Side Lying Glute Medius Banded Clam
Kneeling Hip Flexor stretch
Getting a massage, using lacrosse balls, voodoo band flossing or any other mobility tool on the market can be helpful if you use it in the right areas and consistently.
Curcumin and Omega-3 Fish
A lot of athletes place too high of a strength strain on their lower bodies then wonder why they aren’t recovering. I understand hardcore crossfit but if your strength sessions are consistently impairing your ability to run, hike, swim, bike, swim or trail run then you need to rethink the intensity of your workouts.
Remember, you’re doing this for fun. You enjoy getting after it.
Not sexy and It’s the last thing you want to do after a hard training day but a small, slow walk can help reduce leg soreness because it increases blood flow to sore muscles.
Train With Fresh Legs
Sore leg muscles are never fun. We walk funny. We under perform and we typically feel beat up. But if you follow these guidelines you’ll notice less soreness, your legs won’t feel heavy and your performance will increase.