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How to Get Rid of Muscle Soreness and Prevention Tips
People often think that when their muscles ache after a heavy training session, it means their workout was extraordinary, and a sign of muscle growth. However, muscle soreness generally means you’ve just introduced a new exercise into your routine or you have simply pushed your limits. Before we start with the tips and recovery methods, let’s see what muscle soreness really is.
What Is Muscle Soreness?
Intense training sessions cause micro-tears in your muscle tissue, which bring about the so-called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), usually hours after the workout. The soreness then sticks around for a couple of days, and you may notice some muscle stiffness, swelling and reduced range of motion and muscle strength. This is just a sign that your muscles are not accustomed to your recent workout (they are adapting to it), and it’s a common result of physical activity – i.e. nothing out of the ordinary.
People who are not fit or gym regulars might start worrying once they experience sore muscles (often fearing injury). That is due to the lack of exposure to (heavy) exercise and understanding of the bodily processes behind it. If they are unfamiliar with muscle soreness, of course they are going to feel like they’ve hurt themselves, which can intimidate and discourage them from staying on track with the regimen.
It is important to understand that muscle soreness is a normal side effect of working out and everyone experiences it at some point in their life, no matter how hard they try to avoid it.
How to Reduce Muscle Soreness
Although there is no definite remedy for it as of yet, here are some anecdotal measures you can take that have proven to be helpful for many, and so they are likely to help you, too.
Flexibility and stretching are underrated as people seem to ignore warming up before and cooling down after exercising altogether. Try jogging for 10 minutes to warm up your legs, and a lightweight shoulder circuit if you’re working on your upper body. Cool down for 10 minutes after the training session by doing light aerobics, walking, or stretching.
Stretching has been reported beneficial in the recovery process, as it helps get rid of muscle stiffness and soreness by stimulating blood flow and improving circulation to the muscles. Additionally, you can sign up for yoga and Pilates as they focus on stretching muscles.
It is important to keep exercising and moving even though that is exactly the last thing you want to do in this painful situation. However, you should not be doing the same exercises as the ones that caused your muscle soreness in the first place.
Instead, what you want to do is take it easy and have a moderate workout, involving light walking in addition to cardio and some bodyweight exercises, such as yoga and push-ups. This will get your blood flowing through the sore muscles with nutrients that will help them recover faster.
Foam rolling is like an affordable, do-it-yourself massage. The foam roller can be found at various sports stores, and they are an essential item at every gym. Massaging your sore muscles with a foam roller after working out can decrease the DOMS substantially.
Lie on the floor and place the foam roller beneath you. Roll each major muscle group gently at least five times, and focus on the sore areas. It is recommended to repeat this 5 or 6 times per week for 10-15 minutes.
Right after working out, put ice on the sore spots (you can use ice cubes placed in a plastic Ziploc bag, an ice pack from the supermarket, and even use a bag of frozen vegetables). This method is very common, as it prevents inflammation (which is actually our defense mechanism that, in this case, immobilizes us) and reduces the swelling in muscles and joints.
For the more adventurous types, you can even take an ice bath for 15 minutes – let us warn you, though, that this will not be comfortable at all at first (but you can get used to it). Icing is a safe and simple way to heal inflammation, and it speeds up recovery without any side effects.
Getting enough healthy proteins, fatty acids and carbohydrates after a heavy workout (and in general) may help your muscles recover faster. They are the building blocks of your muscles, mainly responsible for the repair and maintenance of the muscle tissues. To help reduce inflammation, consume foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids — such as walnuts, salmon, avocado, flax, and free-range meat — to your diet.
These foods have natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help fight muscle soreness. Additionally, it helps to optimize the timing of your protein consumption, as the muscle repair (protein synthesis) increases a couple of hours after the workout and when you sleep, making these periods the best for extra protein intake.
How to Prevent Muscle Soreness
Now that we have seen some ways to treat painful muscles, let’s see what we can do to prevent muscle soreness it and not let it happen the next time! Don’t take this the wrong way – you most certainly will get muscle soreness again at some point in your life, but here we analyze the actions we can take, in addition to the previous five, that will minimize both the severity and frequency with which it occurs.
Take It Easy
It is undeniable that you have to push your limits to grow, but pushing too hard will likely get you sore again. Pick the right program or get a personal trainer that will ease you into exercise at a pace suitable for your body. If you are just starting to exercise or it’s been awhile since your last training session, start slow and go easy on yourself at the beginning.
If you are feeling sore after the first workout, take it down a notch. If you aren’t feeling anything, do the opposite moderately. Taking baby steps will get you to your goal sooner than pushing yourself too hard, being sore, and biting off more than you can chew.
Recent studies suggest that eccentric (lowering) part of a repetition increases muscle soreness. So if you limit the lengthening (extension) of a muscle, i.e. do it more quickly while focusing on the concentric (contraction), you can minimize the risk of your muscles being sore.
Most people are chronically dehydrated without even realizing it. When you get thirsty, it means your body is already dehydrated, so you should actually drink water before you’re thirsty. This rings true especially when it comes to sports activities, when your body requires even more water. Dehydration is a source of muscle soreness in itself, which you can avoid by setting reminders to drink water regularly.
Feed Your Muscles
We can’t stress this enough: abs are made in the kitchen. The intake of protein and carbohydrates has a crucial role in building your muscles and preventing them from being sore because they receive all the necessary nutrients for the recovery that way. So make sure to consume enough nutrients for your body.
Whether we are diligent or careless regarding the advice in this article, we all mess up eventually. Sometimes, we unknowingly go beyond what our bodies can handle, but depending on the intensity, it will be between a couple of days and a couple of weeks before we’re fully back and ready for action again. There are ways to make the healing process faster, but the best way is to actively work on preventing muscle soreness, because that way even when the soreness is back, it will likely be low-intensity and short-term. Hopefully you will listen to the advice laid out in this article, relieve your sore muscles, and come back stronger than ever! We wish you all the best!