The One Simple Habit Eliminated My Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

I’ve always loved cycling: I was on the cycling team when I was in college, and for a long time afterward I continued to road race. What I never loved was the resulting pain in my knees, calves, and quads—not to mention my neck (since you’re always bent over but looking up).

While my racing days are behind me, I still train on my bike at least five days a week. And now that I’m no longer in my twenties or thirties, my body doesn’t recover as quickly. I have alot of post-workout pain. Stretching after a ride and massaging my legs (and occasionally splurging on a professional massage) help, but never enough. I started to accept that feeling a bit achy all the time was more or less normal.

Introducing hot baths

Then one day another rider in my group told me that he’d started taking hot baths every night for his post-workout pain, and his legs felt great. “It really promotes recovery,” he said enthusiastically, “and it feels incredible”. I hadn’t had a bath since I briefly lived in Japan years ago—baths are practically a religion there—but I figured it was worth a try.

I Made One Easy (And Free) Change To My Routine And It Nearly Nixed My Post-Workout PainThe first night I decided to take a bath, I realized we hadn’t used our second-floor tub since our son floated plastic ducks in it. But it was still perfectly usable. I had ridden for 30 miles that day, then showered quickly right after just to get clean. My fellow rider who recommended baths advised me to climb into the tub as close to bedtime as possible. He said, “so you don’t lose the good of it by moving around a lot afterward.”

The Process

Later that evening, I ran the water in our tub until it was about two-thirds full, made it as hot as I could stand it, then sank into the water like a weary walrus. The heat took some getting used to, but I managed to stay in for almost 10 minutes. It felt as if the water was penetrating my legs, soothing any aches. When I eventually climbed out, I felt both refreshed and relaxed and ready for bed. My wife commented on my rosy glow. She actually said my legs were as red as a lobster, which I took as a compliment. Added benefit: I fell into a deep sleep as soon as I lay down in bed.

The first night I decided to take a bath, I realized we hadn’t used our second-floor tub since our son floated plastic ducks in it. But it was still perfectly usable. I had ridden for 30 miles that day, then showered quickly right after just to get clean. My fellow rider who recommended baths advised me to climb into the tub as close to bedtime as possible “so you don’t lose the good of it by moving around a lot afterward.”

The Outcome

The next day, I woke up and realized my muscles felt looser than usual. Especially my quads and feet, which are two high-stress areas for me. Because it was a day I wasn’t training on my bicycle, I went for an hour walk. But walking is exercise, too, and it actually pulls on hamstrings and upper body muscles more than cycling does. That evening I took another bath, but to stave off the boredom I brought a book with me. I held it carefully above the water line as I read a few pages. I didn’t want to risk ruining my iPad, which was the right move. When I leaned forward, I dropped the book in the water, and by the time I fished it out, it looked like a broken-winged gull.

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