Aching after a brutal workout? A common misconception is that sore muscles are a sign of an excellent workout, and its proof that your body is making changes in a positive direction. But the truth is that sore muscles and workout quality don’t go hand in hand. It usually just means that you pushed yourself too hard or that you’re doing new exercises.
Even though muscle soreness isn’t a necessity when you’re working to get results, it can creep up on you. Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can make you feel the burn while your muscles recover and rebuild. But, if you take the right steps during and after your workout, you can go hard without paying the price.
Sore Muscle Treatments: During Your Workout
When it comes to soreness and injury, the most important thing is prevention, so add these elements to your game plan:
Stretch it out. Before your workout, an extended warm-up and stretch routine will fully prepare your body for exercise and reduce the effects of DOMS. Take the time to perform gentle dynamic stretches [stretches that involve movement] before your fitness routine and follow up with static stretches [stretches you hold]. Swinging your legs and gentle walking lunges are two examples of dynamic stretches.
Warm up before weight training. Manny people jumping straight to the weight rack when they get to the gym, but loading your muscles without adequate preparation not only increases your chances of getting severe DOMS, it also puts you at risk for a pulling a tendon, ligament, or muscle during your workout. Doing the cardio portion first really warms up your muscles. If you’re doing a weights-only workout, add a heart-pumping element to your warm up, such as jumping jacks or jump rope, to prepare your muscles for hard work.
Hydrate. Hydration is important before and throughout your workout to prevent cramping and decrease inflammation (and muscle soreness) after exercise. And despite what beverage companies want you to believe, water is the best choice for most exercisers. If your fitness routine leads to excessive sweating, either because you are exercising in hot weather or working out vigorously, you might want to also replace electrolytes and sodium by drinking a sports beverage in addition to hydrating with water. Just keep it low-calorie to avoid drinking back all the calories you just burned.
Work out with correct form. Being aware of your posture during your workout can prevent unnecessary DOMS. Select your weights based on your form first because you will benefit more and experience less soreness by lifting 50 pounds correctly than by lifting 100 pounds incorrectly.
Sore Muscle Treatments: Immediately After Your Workout
Resist the urge to collapse in the nearest chair. Instead, to help muscle recovery:
Jump in an ice bath. Almost every college and pro sports team locker room has an ice bath, and athletes are strongly encouraged to jump in after a tough workout for a 10- minute soak. Cold baths have been found to significantly reduce muscle soreness — particularly when compared to resting or no intervention after a workout, researchers at University of Ulster in Northern Ireland concluded after reviewing the results of 17 clinical trials.
Heat up later in the day. A few hours after an intense fitness session, apply a heating pad or other heat source. Muscle tightness is a cause of increased pain for many people, and stimulating the blood flow and loosening up sore muscles with heat can help speed up the healing process.
Reach for pineapple or tart cherries. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, has anti-inflammatory benefits comparable to those of anti-inflammatory medications. Recent research has also unveiled the hidden anti-inflammatory powers of tart cherries or tart cherry juice, which has also been shown to significantly reduce inflammation in the body. You can also purchase supplements containing bromelain at a health food store or online.
Sore Muscle Treatments: The Day After
Use your sore muscles. The day after your workout, use the same muscles in a non-resistant way to avoid soreness. For example, if you have slightly sore muscles from skiing, take a bike ride the following day.
Ice during recovery. Though an ice bath may help stave off muscle soreness immediately after a workout, applying ice topically will help ease the soreness that sets in the next day. Icing decreases inflammation in sore muscles. We used to think muscle soreness following a workout was due to a buildup of lactic acid, but now it’s thought to result from inflammation — ice helps reduce this inflammation.
Indulge in some self-massage. Massage is a great treatment for sore muscles. If your muscles are really sore after a tough workout, the thought of someone touching them may make you scream.If this is the case, self-massage may be a better sore muscle treatment, so you can control the pressure. For this, she suggests a massage stick or a foam roller —these techniques will relax sore muscles and stretch them to relieve tension.