Getting Started Tips: Recovery

Welcome back!  In today’s installment of my “Getting Started” series we are going to talk about recovery.  In part one of the series, Physical Therapist Cristin McGetrick talked about some exercises that can help prepare yourself for an exercise and hiking program.  In part two of the series Physical Therapist Glenn Wellmann talked about ways to try to prevent and avoid injuries and advice on when to be concerned.


Hopefully you have learned some tricks in those blogs and maybe even started to get from the couch to the trail.  Hopefully you also realize the benefit of taking it slow and building strength and endurance.  Eventually, you are going to work your muscles a little too hard and you are going get a bit sore.  Cristin McGetrick is back today with some tricks on what you can do to help recover when you are sore to make sure you don’t get too frustrated.

Cristin McGetrick has a Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy with added certificates in strength and conditioning and tactical strength and conditioning. She was also a collegiate athlete and is an avid outdoor enthusiast and climber.  I was able to talk with her about a simple program to get you started toward your journey off the couch and onto the trail.  

Disclaimer: This is for general education purposes only.  You should consult with a physician before beginning any exercise program.  Each person is different and opinions given in this article are not to be construed as a diagnosis, personal medical advice, or a treatment plan. Always personally see a medical professional for individual ailments and medical advice. 

Fatman:  Cristin, thank you so much for joining me again to talk about some recovery.  In an early blog I took the uneducated commical approach to DOMS and your colleague Glenn briefly touched on DOMS but could you explain a little more about what DOMS is and why we hate it so much?  

Crisitn McGetrick PT, DPT, CSCS, TSAC-F: DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Usually it begins about 2 days after the exercise. Sometimes people don’t feel too much the day after doing more activity than you are used to, but 2 days later is a different story.

FM:  Is there anything we can do immediately after exercising that can help slow down the DOMS and other pains?

CM: Going straight from a more intense hike to sitting in the car for a long drive is not ideal. Do a little cool down walk around the parking lot, drink water, and replenish protein. Sitting in the car after strenuous exercise can make your muscles tighten up and getting out of the car can end up being quite a struggle. By taking a little time after your hike to cool down, hopping out of your car when you get home will be much easier.   

FM:  I am absolutely terrible about stretching before a hike.  I see the trailhead and just want to get to walking.  How important is stretching before a hike or is warming the muscles up with light exercises better?

CM: A dynamic warm up is the best. Doing long static holds has started to fall out of fashion as they are putting your muscles in positions they have never been and then asking them to work. A dynamic warm up wakes up your muscles and gets them ready for the hike. Even doing a 5 minute slow, relatively flat or slightly graded walk works as well.

Editor note. I found this link to dynamic warm ups for runners. A technical issue wouldn’t let me use the link that Cristin suggested.


FM:  From high school health class I remember the phrase R.I.C.E.  I’m pretty sure that means to eat a giant bowl of rice and take an aspirin.  What does it really mean and why is it important?

CM:  RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation which is usually used after an ankle sprain or twist and knee swelling. It has become split on how people are feeling about this concept. One side says icing helps dampen the negative effects of inflammation which in turn can help with healing down the line. The other side says that icing inhibits your body from going through the proper healing progression of injury, inflammation, repair, and remodeling. Instead, gentle movements as soon as tolerable is more of the way to go. I’ll let you pick which side you want to be on!

FM: What about heat.  I mean unless it is ice cream or iced coffee I don’t think anyone likes ice as much as a nice warm compress.  When is it better to ice and when is heat more effective or is there a better option?

CM: After these hot days, warm compresses after a nice long and possibly sunny hike can sound awful! Taking a warm shower after a hike can help relax you and in turn may help a little bit with soreness. I would advise people to perform a cool down after a hike as a go to rather than heat or ice.

FM:  I know one of those crazy people who loves running long distances (or running at all) and they have talked about a “recovery run” to help them feel better.  Are there any benefits to exercising when you are sore and how hard of a workout should it be?

CM: Doing a light workout when you are sore can help with the lactic acid build up in the muscles. By getting the lactic acid moving it can more easily be reabsorbed by the body. This will in turn help with the soreness and get you ready for the next hike.

FM: Anything I am forgetting to ask or any other points you would like to make about recovery?

CM: Biggest thing would be to make sure you are hydrated on the hike and replenish fluids and protein after. Dynamic warm up before and a cool down after the hike are your best way to tackle potential injuries and post hike soreness. By gradually increasing the distances and difficulty of your hike will decrease the amount of soreness you will feel after.

Thank you so much Crisitn! As you can see a lot of ways that Cristin mentions to recover is to make sure you are doing the right things before and during your hike to reduce the amount of pain you feel after the hike.

I hope this has been helpful for anyone who is trying to gain some more information before about starting a journey of their own. I will have more tips in teh coming weeks. Happy hiking and good luck!

Leave a Reply