Pushing through and finishing a brutal workout is a great feeling, whether you set a personal best running hills, hit a new max on squats or bench press, or completed that grueling CrossFit class. However, the soreness and stiffness that sets in over the following few days is not such a great feeling. When it hurts to even stand up from the couch or grab a plate from the top shelf, it can be tough to find the motivation to do anything.
Delayed Onset Soreness
This is called delayed onset muscle soreness and is experienced by everyone. During a workout, the muscles develop microscopic tears in the fibers. After a tough bout of exercise, the body responds by repairing these tears by forming stronger, more durable tissue to better adapt to future exercise. This healing process causes pain and discomfort, and although nothing except time can fully get rid of muscle soreness, here are four tips to help relieve it, helping you get back to your daily activities and workouts.
Get Moving and Stretch
Although it seems to go against everything your body might be telling you, getting up and moving around is one of the best things for sore muscles. Keeping your muscles moving stimulates blood throughout the body, helping to flush out damaged or unnecessary tissues, which reduces muscle swelling and discomfort and speeds up the healing process. While a little exercise or a nice, easy jog is a good way to relieve soreness, it is important not to overwork yourself the day or two after a workout. Your muscles need 24 to 48 hours to recover before they are ready for another full workout to prevent injury and maximize the benefits of each session.
During each workout, ensuring that you properly warm up and cool down your muscles before and after each workout helps to limit injury potential and can help to reduce post-workout soreness as well. It is also important to consistently work on stretching and muscle flexibility. Increased muscle mobility is a benefit for many aspects of life and especially in the gym.
Sit in the Hot Tub
Sitting in a hot tub or Jacuzzi is a great way to relieve muscle discomfort. The hot tub spa water helps to heat the muscles and increase blood circulation throughout the body, bringing fresh oxygen to the muscles to heal and soothe them, while eliminating harmful irritants. Be sure not to hop in the water too soon after a workout though, as the increased heat and blood flow can worsen the already inflamed post-workout muscles, leading to even more delayed onset soreness and a longer healing time.
Throw on an Ice Pack
Even though it has the opposite effect of the hot tub, utilizing ice on sore muscles is another effective treatment technique. When muscles are exposed to ice, blood flow decreases in that area, reducing inflammation. By reducing inflammation, ice helps to reduce the speed of muscle breakdown, which shortens the duration of the healing process.
After ice is removed, the muscles warm back up and begin the healing process. Ice is a simple and common treatment option during recovery. It should be used for a maximum of about 20 minutes at a time, and about the same length of time should be taken between icing sessions.
Get a Massage
Getting a massage, either professionally or performing one on your own, is another way to help relieve muscle soreness. Massaging your muscles helps to decrease inflammation in the muscles by clearing out unnecessary materials and chemicals through increased blood flow. If doing a self-massage, using a foam roller, massage stick, or a tennis ball on various body parts is a great way to effectively target all the major muscle groups in the body and speed up the recovery process.
Having sore muscles after exercising is an awful feeling, but seeing the progress in your workouts afterwards is always rewarding. Delayed onset muscle soreness cannot be avoided, but it can be minimized by taking these few simple steps.