Updated: Oct 2, 2021
Yes, the onset of muscle soreness can be, well, a real pain! Muscle soreness can span from mild to moderate tenderness to pain and inflammation. Symptoms typically occur 24 - 48hrs post physical activity, most commonly present when new fitness activities are introduced and/or a fitness routine increases in challenge. Someone just beginning a fitness routine after a long hiatus or starting to explore a structured program for the first time are also more susceptible to these symptoms as their body works to adjust and adapt to new changes. Have no fear we are here to help arm you with some simple ways you can reduce muscle soreness by giving you tips and tools to make the most out of your pre-workout and post-workout activities!
Start Smart - Don’t skimp on the warm up. Warm up activities such as a low to moderate paced walk, ride on the elliptical or recumbent bike, and even a short rowing session are a great way to warm up the muscles and get the body loose and ready to move. Working out at home or outside of conventional cardio equipment? Try marching in place, jumping jacks, jump rope, jog in place, or a few jump squats followed by some light stretching movements to get you ready to go!
Fill the Tank - Your body needs energy to workout! A healthy balance of complex carbs and lean proteins pre workout (ideally 1-2 hours before to avoid digestive upset) can help not only enhance your athletic performance, but also enable you to workout longer while helping you avoid the dreaded post workout crash by supplying the body with the fuel it needs to perform. Try a mix of dried fruit and unsalted nuts, apple slices with natural peanut butter, oatmeal with fresh fruit, a fruit and veggie smoothie, or a half a slice of whole wheat bread with almond butter. The goal is to prep the body with clean moderate to slow digesting carbs as these are the body’s primary fuel source for energy!
Stretch It Out - So you had a great workout and are feeling on top of the world….you don’t need to waste your time stretching, right? Wrong. Now is prime time to get in a good stretching circuit while the muscles are warm and the body is feeling loose and pliable for movement. Even just picking 3 – 4 stretches that target the main muscle groups can be hugely beneficial in alleviating muscle tension later. Some of my favorites are the spinal twist, the forward bend, pigeon, standing side bend, and the runner’s lunge. Hold each pose up to 1 minute for optimal benefit.
Get Moving - When muscle soreness does hit you really just want to lay on the couch and use this as an opportunity to catch up with Netflix, but don’t! Movement encourages healthy blood flow, circulation, and oxygen consumption - all of which are key to supporting muscle repair and recovery. Activities such as a low to moderate paced walk, light yoga (think Hatha, Viniyoga, and Restorative practices), or a series of light stretching exercises are all great low impact ways to engage the muscles gently.
Ice Ice Baby - For areas especially tender to the touch or to reduce inflammation try applying ice every few hours for 10-15min at a time (this can be a great help for sore glutes!)
Soak It Up - Enjoy the soothing effects of an epsom salt bath. These little salts work naturally with the body to ease pain and muscle cramps, reduce bruising, and help rid the body of toxins – not too mention the mind/body/spirit benefits of soaking away the day! Try adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to further boost the holistic healing benefits.
Roll Away - Foam rollers, massage sticks, even a tennis ball can be great for reducing muscle tension by helping promote myofascial release. Use against common trigger points (such as the IT-band, glutes, quads, hamstrings and shoulders) – sometimes where you are experiencing the pain is actually coming from another tight area of the body!
Re-plenish and re-fuel - What you consume post workout can influence how well you recover. Consuming a ratio of lean protein, healthy fats and slow to moderate digesting carbs approximately 30-60min after your workout will enable the body to use that caloric energy most efficiently, replenishing key stores for muscle recovery and repair. A power combo like sliced banana with a Tbsp of natural peanut butter or a banana blended up with some almond milk and a scoop of protein powder can offer quick digestible carbs, protein, healthy fats, as well as deliver potassium, calcium and other anti-inflammatory properties, which will help to balance electrolytes, regulate healthy blood sugars, restore energy AND reduce the onset of muscle soreness. It is no wonder why so many fitness enthusiasts reach for bananas, a banana a day keeps the muscle cramps away!
Take A Break - And finally, if you are noticing more and more muscle soreness, a spike in overuse injuries, fatigue during workouts occurring more quickly, mood imbalances, disrupted sleep and/or sudden appetite changes it may be time for a break. While fitness does a body good (as well as mind and spirit) too much of a good thing is still too much! The body needs time to recover, replenish and repair between intense workout sessions, which is what those active rest days were created for. So be sure and take that day off in between strength training activities, limit HIIT sessions to 2x a week, and listen to your body. If you are working out 6 or 7 days a week at the same level of intensity each time, you may be pushing your body outside of its limits, headed for burnout or worse, injury. Remember rest days are also an important component of a well rounded fitness program.
REST - it does a body good!
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