Are you paralyzed by sore muscles after a workout? Does it prevent you from getting back in the gym the following day? If so, you may benefit from learning how to neutralize the effects of sore muscles and recover faster.
Why Do Muscles Get Sore?
We’ve all been there before. You perform a hard workout and wake up the next morning feeling stiff, sore, and tender. But have you ever considered why?
Muscle soreness is a side effect of putting stress on muscles during exercise or physical activity. It’s commonly referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and is totally normal. In most cases, DOMS will start to emerge six to eight hours after exercise and will progress for 24 to 48 hours. Peak soreness usually occurs around the 48-hour mark after exercise.
You’re most likely to experience sore muscles after:
- Starting a brand new exercise/workout program
- Utilizing different muscles or muscle groupings
- Adding a brand new workout to your routine
- Increasing the weight, intensity, or number of repetitions of an exercise
- Exercising without a sufficient break
As mentioned, sore muscles are normal and, typically, don’t indicate anything serious or adverse. While annoying and uncomfortable, the soreness is the result of your muscle fibers breaking down during exercise.
These fibers are then forced to repair themselves to become stronger than they were before. As part of this process, fluid accumulates in the muscles. This leads to a “tight” and “tender” feeling.
6 Ways to Prevent and Recover From Sore Muscles
While some soreness can actually be a good sign – indicating that you’re strengthening your muscles and challenging your body – excessive and prolonged soreness isn’t enjoyable.
Here are several ways you can prevent, lessen, and recover from sore muscles faster.
1. Warm Up More
It’s a good idea to start your workout with a warmup. Not only does this reduce the likelihood of injury, but it could also limit how much soreness you experience after the workout.
A good warmup helps increase blood flow to specific regions of the body. This helps your muscles prepare and avoids “shocking” them with a sudden increase in intensity. It’s a good idea to do light versions of the exercises you’re about to perform.
2. Drink Lots of Water
Proper hydration levels can reduce pain, protect your muscles, and keep you more mobile after a challenging workout. Water keeps your cartilage soft and pliable, while also supplying your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly.
When you’re dehydrated, fluid is actually pulled out of your tissues in order to support your body’s vital organs. This causes aches and pains. It can also limit the amount of water you have available to help repair your muscles. Thus, if you aren’t drinking enough fluids, it’ll take longer for these muscles to recover.
While fresh, clean water should be your primary source of fluids, you can also supplement with other options. Tart cherry juice, for example, is packed with anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants. And according to one study, long distance runners who drank it for eight days reported less muscle pain and fatigue.
3. Keep Moving
While you might feel like lounging around on the sofa and binging your favorite TV show, the best thing you can do for sore muscles is keep moving. You don’t want to push yourself too hard (which could have a negative effect), but you should incorporate light and gentle movement.
The best workout for sore muscles is swimming. It allows you to gently activate your muscles without putting a ton of pressure on these muscles or joints. Low-impact water aerobics and stretches are also helpful.
4. Get a Post-Workout Massage
According to a study, post-exercise massages “significantly reduce” pain in individuals with sore muscles. It works by suppressing the release of cytokines (compounds that cause inflammation) and stimulating mitochondria in the cells, which encourages cell function and repair.
While it might not be a technical benefit, massages also feel good. They can help you relax and recharge after a tough workout. It’s both a physical and mental benefit. Incorporating regular massages into your recovery routine will help you find the right balance between pushing yourself and resting.
5. Use a Heating Pad
Most people reach for the ice when they’re feeling sore after a workout, but should you actually opt for heat? There’s plenty of scientific evidence to support this idea.
Heat – whether applied via heating pads or a warm shower/bath – increases blood flow by opening up your blood vessels. This is believed to help flush out negative byproducts of inflammation that exacerbate feelings of soreness and tenderness.
Heat also has a secondary benefit of increasing circulation, which ensures waste products are quickly pushed through your system, leading the way for muscle recovery.
6. Get More Sleep
Research shows that a lack of sleep is often directly linked to poor exercise performance and recovery. Sleep is an integral part of your body’s overall health and well-being. It plays a direct role in the health of your brain, heart, and lungs. It also impacts things like immune functioning, metabolism, and mood.
Sleep is the time when your body refuels and rejuvenates. You need this time to deactivate your muscles and subject them to replenishment. If you want to recover faster, make sure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep after a day of exercise.
Anything less than this will limit your recovery.
Get Your Personalized Training Plan
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With degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology, Nathan DeMetz uses his diverse skill set and 20-plus years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world to create personalized training plans for people all over the world.
Whether you’re looking for strength training, run coaching, virtual coaching, meal planning, or anything in between…we can help you achieve your goals. Contact us today to learn more!
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.
Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.
To work with Nathan directly on your personal training goals, contact him today!