Sore muscles are something that most exercise enthusiasts will experience, whether it’s from starting a new style of exercise or simply pushing yourself really hard, muscle soreness is often the by-product of stressing your muscle fibres to initiate growth and development. I’ve always found that there is something slightly satisfying about having a little DOM’s (delayed onset muscle soreness) after a particularly gruelling training session. It lets you know that you have challenged yourself and that your muscles are working to adjust and adapt, becoming stronger and more resilient than before.
That being said, having really sore muscles can be more than a little uncomfortable. It can also be a little inconvenient if you are finding it difficult to climb stairs, sit down or even just to walk normally when you have important social appointments (like perhaps a work meeting, or even a date!).
Here are some approaches and tips to use to help reduce muscle soreness, as well as ways to help prevent it!
Even though exercising when your muscles are already sore from overuse might be the last thing on your mind, active recovery is actually an excellent way to not only quicken your recovery time but also help reduce your discomfort. Active recovery can take many forms, but basically is it means exercising at a lower intensity and/or with less volume. Some excellent examples are walking, light jogging, swimming and even resistance training using light weights, or body-weight only. Choose a type of exercise that works the muscles that are aching, in a way that will not place too much pressure on them. For example, if you have done a super squat/lunge/deadlift session, and your quads and glutes are aching, try going for a steady power walk to activate those muscles and help stimulate blood flow to them.
Even though stretching muscles that are hurting can be a little painful, it is actually a great way to stimulate oxygen-rich blood into those areas and support the regrowth process. The problem is that over stretching cold muscles (for example, first thing in the morning) can cause more damage, it is best to use the stretching after first doing some active recovery exercising.
Foam rollers use applied pressure, in the form of self-massage, to help stimulate blood flow into the muscles that are aching. Foam rollers are also good for helping release knots and tightness that forms in muscles due to stress or overuse.
Increasing the temperature of an area stimulates blood flow, which in turn helps support the healing process as well as provides pain relief. You can enjoy a hot bath with some Epsom salts and essential oils, or just apply a heat pack. There are also peel and stick heat patches that can be applied and worn under most clothing without being seen, so you can have the warming relief whilst going about your normal activities.
Magnesium, the primary component of Epsom salts, is essential for healthy muscles and is a gentle natural muscle relaxant. The salts, when added to a warm bath or compress, are absorbed by the skin and are actually more effective this way than by taking an oral magnesium supplement.
Have a Drink
Have a Coffee or some Cherry Juice or add some Creatine to your Pre-Workout. Coffee has been found to help with muscle soreness, about the equivalent of two cups of coffee, helped reduce muscle soreness in women after a strenuous workout. It works by blocking adenosine, a chemical released by your body in response to injury. Just be careful not to overdo this one, as too much caffeine can cause muscle spasms. Cherry Juice has a high level of antioxidants (even more than pomegranates!) and other benefits, one of which is decreased muscle soreness. Try adding a splash to your post-workout smoothie.
Creatine has been shown to help lessen the pain and duration of muscle soreness from an intense strength-training session. Creatine is an amino acid and its job is to funnel energy to your cells in your body, particularly your muscle cells. So more creatine in your system means more energy is available for building and repairing. Even better, reported side effects like bloating or upset stomach are rare and generally mild.
A little soreness is normal, but more intense pain can usually be avoided. If you are finding you are often left limping for days after an intense training session, then consider the following:
Warm up - This doesn’t mean stretch; it means to prepare the body parts you intend to use. If you are going sprinting, start with a fast walk then a slow jog before you hit the accelerator. If you are hitting the weights, try a little cardio beforehand to work into the parts you are using, such as some burpees, light jogging, or skipping.
Don’t overdo it - Know your own limitations. Yes, it is great to push yourself to get stronger, but that doesn’t mean pushing yourself so hard you cause damage. This will only result in muscle damage that will take longer to recover from. Just increase your resistance/intensity/distance or time in stages appropriate for you. Listen to your body, it will usually tell you when something is too much!
Omega 3’s - Making sure you have enough omega 3s in your diet so that you have all the building materials needed to repair and rebuild is important. Omega 3s actually help reduce inflammation and reduce soreness, so if you are not getting enough in your diet (walnuts, flaxseeds and salmon are all great sources!) then you should consider using a supplement.
Warm down - Warming down is a big one! Stretching after intense use helps your muscles release some of the lactic acid that has built up, as well as slowly warming the muscles down. Both of which help reduce the risk of DOM’s.
Stay Fit & Strong xx