So you woke up with sore muscles and now you dread every step you take, every time you have to sit down or God forbid, take the stairs. Even though this pain is never pleasant, admit that from time to time you love it because you know you trained effectively. If you experienced muscle soreness in the past you know it’s the type and the intensity of the workout that decide the level of soreness. But the good news with muscle soreness is that your body gets used to increased intensity and activity pretty quickly. This means that over time you’ll experience less pain post-workout.
Why Do Muscles Get Sore?
Before we move on to the ways in which you can relieve the pain, let’s chat about why our muscles get sore in the first place. If you remember the first time you worked out (in general or after a long break) you know the awful pain that hits your body the next day. That type of pain is also known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and it’s probably the worst you’ll experience because once you start working out regularly your muscles will get stronger and the soreness will become minimal or non-existent.
With that said, once you try a new style of workout or increase the intensity the soreness will appear again. Why? Because you introduced your muscles to something they’re not used to, to something that is completely new to them. This puts stress on your muscles which causes microscopic tears within them. When this damage happens your body triggers an inflammatory process and the muscles begin repairing themselves. Fluid accumulates in the muscles, putting extra pressure in the damaged areas (e.g. quads, hamstrings and glutes if you trained legs that day) and you feel the well-known tightness and pain.
Understandably, all that inflammation, damage and tears we talked about may sound bad, but it’s not the case this time. It’s completely normal to experience DOMS and it’s nothing you should be worried about. Like I mentioned earlier, as time passes your muscles will get bigger, stronger and you won’t experience muscle soreness as often.
5 Steps To Relieve Sore Muscles
WARM UP AND COOL DOWN.
Whatever you do, do not skip warm up and cool down. They are an essential part of your workout routine and should get equal amount of attention. Five minutes are enough for your warm up and the same goes for the cool down. For the warm up you can dance to your favourite song, jump rope or do some dynamic stretches. Warm up is important because it raises your body temperature and increases blood flow to the muscles. Therefore, it can lessen the risk of injury and help reduce muscle soreness.
On the other hand, during cool down you should perform static stretches that will help you bring your heart rate down as well as strengthen and lengthen your muscles. Furthermore, cool down promotes recovery by keeping the blood circulating which in turn removes waste products from the muscles. Better blood circulation also means more oxygen and nutrient-rich blood going to the injured muscles. Learn more about the importance of warm up and cool down.
When it comes to muscle recovery, staying hydrated is an important aspect of it. Dehydration can make your muscle stiffness worse so it’s key you stay hydrated during AND after your workout. Hydration during workout is important because your muscles are working harder, they demand more oxygen and need more blood pumping around. However, hydration after workout is essential in order to replace fluids lost through sweating.
Have a water bottle by your side when you exercise and make sure to take a sip of water every couple of minutes. Following your workout replace lost electrolytes by drinking coconut water or an electrolyte drink. Avoid beverages high in sugar, salt and caffeine as these can promote dehydration.
Fueling your body with proper nutrition is necessary if you want to enhance your performance and endurance during workouts. Nonetheless, choosing the right meal is essential for speeding up recovery process. Your post-workout meal should be rich in protein and carbs. Protein plays an important role in providing amino acids required to rebuild your muscles. On the other hand, carbs replenish fuel stores used by your muscles during the workout. Other than that, it’s important to eat well-balanced meals throughout the day, every day.
Your meal plan should consist of enough protein, carbs and healthy fats, as well as sufficient number of fruit and veggies so you can get your vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C and zinc are known to promote healing. Some of the good food options post-workout include cottage cheese, eggs, tart cherries, watermelon, nuts & seeds, salmon, sweet potatoes, etc. Good drink options include a protein shake, smoothie, green tea or healthy hot chocolate (cacao has high levels of antioxidants, magnesium, and B-vitamins which help reduce stress in our bodies related to exercise).
Bottom line is to eat whole foods that provide your body with the right nutrition and to avoid sugar and alcohol. If you don’t know where to start with nutrition, I have a couple of suggestions:
- Quick Post – Workout Snack Ideas For Busy People
- Chocolate – Peanut Butter Smoothie
- Healthier Substitutes For Everyday Foods
Hello sweet self – myofascial release! Self-myo-what? I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about foam rolling but not so much about self – myofascial release or SMR for short. Simply put it means massaging your muscles with the help of certain objects like a foam roller, lacrosse ball or PVC pipe. If you haven’t tried out this method yet, but want to, be sure to check out guides for how to correctly massage each muscle group.
Foam rolling after a workout can be very beneficial in preventing soreness by relieving muscle tension. Furthermore, it increases blood flow to the muscles, improves circulation and helps reduce the appearance of cellulite. This method of SMR can help you recover faster and increase your range of motion. Try 5 – 10 minutes of foam rolling after a tough workout or whenever your body craves extra TLC.
Yup, you read that right, a cold shower after a hot and sweaty workout. It’s not something your mum would recommend…ever. This year I made myself a challenge to do a different challenge each month. Couple of months back, taking cold showers every day for 30 days, was one of them and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. After each shower I felt like my mind was clearer, my stress melted away and I had more energy for the remaining daily tasks.
Aside from helping with your mental state of mind and making you feel awesome, cold showers are great for reducing muscle soreness. You know how people put ice packs when they injure certain body part? It’s because the cold from the ice diverts blood away from the injured area, reducing inflammation and swelling. Taking a cold shower after exercising works in a similar way because it helps slow the inflammation process and reduces soreness.
However, to reap full recovery benefits the water should be pretty cold. This means you’ll come out the shower red because of all the blood rising to the surface. It doesn’t sound appealing at all, I know, and you may ask why would you want to do that to yourself, but the only way to find out your why is to give it a try. Do it for a week or after each tough workout and decide for yourself!
SHOULD YOU WORKOUT WITH SORE MUSCLES?
I’d say yes but it also completely depends on you and the way you’re feeling. If your whole body is sore then it might be the best if you just did some of these recovery steps we’ve been through, like foam rolling, taking a cold shower and eating well. On the other hand, if your legs are sore you can do upper body training. This way you’ll give your legs the rest they need and you’ll get a workout in.
Do tell me in the comments which muscle group gets sore most often in your case? For me it’s legs in majority but chest/shoulders/triceps are a close second. Also, remember that the steps above give the best results when done in combination. Don’t do just one thing and expect your sore muscles to recover quickly.