Reactive Hyperemia - Not as Scary as it Sounds!

Reactive hyperemia is an influx or return of blood flow to an area of the body where blood flow was previously restricted due to inflammation. Of course, for runners this typically entails all affected running muscles located below the waist. Reactive hyperemia is a runner’s friend and a positive occurrence since it’s an essential process for muscle recovery. After particularly hard bouts of running such as a race, longer than usual long run or even possibly higher intensity efforts ( speed work ), the inflammation and muscle trauma that takes place, which important for a runner’s adaptation, will cause a stiffness to soreness the next day. Particularly after a period of inactivity such as a good nights sleep, while the muscle fibres are repairing themselves. This is commonly referred to as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). While DOMS is felt when you get up the next day, the effect typically continues to be felt and even escalate and not really peak until two days after the training effort that caused the muscular trauma. While a runner’s first instinct might be to do nothing in response to this soreness, the most effective reaction is to enhance the recovery of the damaged muscle and triggering the hyperemia is to MOVE!

Here are a few strategies to induce reactive hyperemia by opening up your vascular pathways and enhancing your recovery:

  • The day after your hard effort resist the temptation to do nothing - go for an easy bike ride (no sprinting or hills), swim or brisk walk to warm up your legs and the rest of your body. Low intensity exercise to open up the vascular pathways and promote fresh blood flow to the recovering muscles Take great care to keep the intensity low as training stimulus during a recovery period is counterproductive to your fitness.
  • Perform very light stretching targeting all of the muscles your entire legs. Hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds per muscle.
  • Get a massage if you have the opportunity within two days of your effort. A massage is one of the best ways to promote blood flow to your inflamed areas.
  • Pay attention to your nutrition during your recovery period. Consume lots of good clean water and nutritious/antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits and veggies.

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