We gym rats just love being sore. Waddling around the day after some seriously tough squats? That means they did their job. And struggling to hold the phone to your ear because your biceps are so freaking zonked? Serious bragging rights.
Yeah, we’ve all reveled in the “hurts so good” aches and pains that come in the hours and days following our workouts. But here’s the thing: Sore muscles aren’t necessarily a sign of a great workout. This isn’t meant to put down all your hard work—rather, it’s to inform you that contrary to what you’ve always thought, soreness isn’t the best measure of how effective your workout was.
That “hurts so good” feeling is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. It refers to the stiff, weak, and sore muscles that you get about 24 to 48 hours after a workout. It’s especially common if you’re new to working out, haven’t exercised in a while, or recently tried a new type of exercise. “While the process is not fully understood, current research shows that the soreness, tightness, and reduction in strength capacity occurs alongside damage to the muscle fibers’ contractile units, called sarcomeres, as well as inhibited calcium signaling and function within those units. These changes lead to inflammatory responses and the activation of several muscle protein degradation pathways,” which result in pain and weakness, Minnesota-based exercise physiologist Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., tells SELF.
As you’ve probably heard, exercise improvements come down to your body’s ability to adapt to the stresses you put it under. Challenge it, break it down (just a bit), and as it recovers, it will build itself back to being stronger and fitter than before. So, from that point of view, DOMS has to be a good thing, right? Well, sometimes it is. It can be a sign that you’re challenging your body in new ways, hitting previously underused muscles, and increasing your workout’s intensity in a significant way. But it can also be a sign that your workout is all over the place, you aren’t progressing toward any one goal, and that your body is in dire need of recovery.
DOMS isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Virtually every exerciser has started a new workout, only to be riddled with DOMS a day or two later. Then, when they hit up the exact same workout the next week, no DOMS (or just less intense DOMS). What gives?
According to 2016 research from Brigham Young University, it only takes one workout for your immune system to “learn” how to best repair your muscles from that workout. As a result, you boost your recovery (think: exercise results) while actually reducing your likelihood of getting DOMS.
So if you’re constantly dealing with DOMS, it’s possible that you’re trying new and different workouts every time that you hit the gym, which, in the end, can shortchange your results. Fitness results—it doesn’t matter if we are talking increased speed, more muscle, less fat, or better heart health—need consistency. Think about it this way: You aren’t going to build a big booty by doing goblet squats one week and calf raises the next. No, you have to do squats every single week, increasing their depth, weight, or number of reps or sets, as often as you can.
Meanwhile, if you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum as a consummate creature of habit, more likely than not, constant soreness is a telltale sign that you’re overtraining, suggests one Sports Health review. “You need to allow the muscles to recover so you’re not overtraining or hitting plateaus, and continual DOMS can signal that your body is breaking down from your workouts, but not necessarily building back up afterward,” Baltimore-based strength coach Erica Suter, C.S.C.S., tells SELF. “Proper recovery will allow for a stronger grind the next day, and for you to hone in on high intensity in subsequent workouts.”
- Is Working Out When Sore a Bad Idea?
- Why your muscles feel sore a day or two after exercise, and what to do about it
- 12 Memes That Nail What It’s Like to Have Back Pain
- 1. When you know you can do something, but your back pain stops you:
- 2. When you have to make the best out of physical therapy:
- 3. When your back feels great one day and bad the next:
- 4. When you take advantage of modern medicine:
- 5. When changing your position just a little bit relieves so much of your back pain:
- 6. When that one guy you barely know thinks he knows everything about your back pain:
- 7. When you sat in a desk with no lumbar support all day:
- 8. When you have so much knowledge about back pain, but still struggle on your own:
- 9. When adulthood just means extra back pain:
- 10. When your doctor orders tests for your back, but the scans show nothing new:
- 11. When someone tells you yoga will fix your back pain:
- 12. When one little thing exhausts your back:
- 12 Memes That Are All of Us After Leg Day
- 14 Stages of Being Sore After a Workout
- Know the difference between soreness and a strain
- Keep switching up your workouts
- Eat protein
- Use compression
- Get a massage
- Take a day off
- Do some light activity
- Foam roll
- Prime your muscles
- Drink cherry juice
- Take a nap
- Alternate muscle groups
- Soak in an Epsom salt bath
- Build up your tolerance
- Get some vitamin C
- Invest in some technology
- Eat some kiwi
- Try a topical cream
- Cut back on the booze
- Try This: 12 Exercises to Relieve Hip and Lower Back Pain
Is Working Out When Sore a Bad Idea?
Muscle soreness after a hard sweat sesh can feel like a badge of honor; it’s a reminder that you got your butt up in the morning to make time for a workout and really pushed yourself. But what does that mean for the next day’s workout? Is working out when sore a bad idea?
While some soreness after a new or intense workout (such as this crazy-effective butt-sculpting routine) is totally natural, a “no pain, no gain” mindset can have serious consequences if you’re going full steam ahead when you should really be slowing down. Yes, the work you do in the gym is important, but it’s just as important to give your body sufficient time to recover in between workouts, according to Kirk Campbell, M.D., a sports medicine surgeon and assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center.
While you may be tempted to power through, there’s great danger in not allowing ample time for your muscles to rest, explains Leesa Galatz, M.D., chair of the orthopedic department at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Since the soreness you’re experiencing is actually due to microscopic muscle damage, the muscle needs to recover before it can work at its optimal capacity again. A tired muscle that hasn’t had time to recover is more susceptible to a serious muscle tear or excessive tissue damage, she explains.
That burn you feel 24 to 48 hours after an intense workout is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it’s enough to make you want to put down the kettlebell and pick up a cocktail. But press on! We talked to fitness and nutrition expert Harley Pasternak, M.Sc., trainer to celebrities like Lady Gaga, Megan Fox, and Halle Berry, about why (some) pain is good.
“The idea behind resistance training is that you’re basically tearing something and creating a microtrauma in the muscle,” Pasternak says. “When the muscle recovers, it’s going to recover stronger and denser than it was before.” (This is all the science you need to know about burning fat and building muscle.)
Just make sure what you’re suffering from is DOMS and not an injury. “A good way to tell the difference is if the pain is bilateral,” Pasternak says. Having one very sore shoulder after you’ve worked both shoulders could spell injury. If you feel normal soreness in a muscle, ligament, or tendon, it’s DOMS and you can continue working out around it, Pasternak says. In the case of arms and shoulders, you can work your quads, abs, or glutes and then move back to your upper body in a few days.
To avoid feeling the pain of DOMS the next time around, Pasternak suggests starting your exercise routine slow. “Increase your resistance gradually so that your muscles adapt to your new workout plan.” (And add these 10 recovery-aid eats to your menu!)
But should you work out when sore? Or are you too sore to work out? We break it down below.
Should You Exercise with Sore Muscles?
The answer is a hard and fast NO if…
- Getting out of bed makes you want to cry. We all know that feeling. But if you’re having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, or it’s difficult to sit down or stand up the next day after a heavy squat sesh, you have a clear answer. Give your body more time to rest and instead focus on recovery with dynamic stretching or using a foam roller, says Campbell.
- It’s hard to take the stairs. If it’s excessively difficult to walk up the stairs, you know your body is telling you to cool it for a couple of days and focus on working different muscles. Instead, try a low-intensity, low-impact workout like going for a walk, using the elliptical, or going for an easy bike ride or swim, which may help speed up the recovery. (Related: Is it OK to Get a Massage If You’re ~Really~ Sore?)
- You need a pain reliever to help you “push through.” It’s important not to mask muscle pain by popping Advil before working out, just to help you grin and bear it, Campbell says. If you need to take a pain reliever to make it through, you haven’t given your muscles enough time to recover.
- If your muscle soreness doesn’t feel better with movement. Yes, your body might feel stiff and sore when you first get out of bed in the morning, but if it doesn’t get better after you walk around, it’s a sign you’re too sore to work out. (Related: 4 Muscle Roller Sticks That Are Almost As Good As a Real Massage)
- You’re still feeling sore days later. As you’ve likely experienced, muscle soreness may not set in immediately—it’s usually at its worst 24 to 48 hours after a workout, Galatz explains. But if you’ve given it three to four days and are still feeling sore and it hasn’t improved, this is a key sign you’ve ventured into too-sore-to-work-out territory and should go see a doc to make sure it isn’t something more serious, Campbell advises.
- If your urine is dark and your muscles are swollen. Go see your doc, stat. This could be a sign of rhabdomyolysis, a rare but life-threatening condition if not treated right away. It’s caused by the body actually breaking down muscles and releasing myoglobin and creatine kinase into the blood stream, which can lead to kidney damage. Although uncommon, it has been found in people performing intense conditioning workouts such as CrossFit, Campbell warns. (Snooze off the soreness! These tech products can help you recover from exercise as you sleep.)
4 Tips for Reducing Muscles Soreness
Did you fail the “should I work out when sore” test? There are plenty of things you can do to ease those lingering aches as you get back up to speed (in fact, we have a full list of ways to relieve sore muscles).
Try four of Pasternack’s faves:
- Warm up. “Increase body temperature to help prepare your muscles for the shock of an intense workout,” Pasternak says.
- Stay hydrated. “A lack of electrolytes can make muscles sore,” Pasternak says. He recommends drinking easily digested fluids so you can power up and avoid an upset stomach. “Look for beverages with no protein or stimulants, like Powerade Zero.” (Related: “Spending An Entire Weekend Focusing on Recovery Opened My Eyes to How Much I Needed It”)
- Ice sore muscles. “Have a cold pack handy to reduce pain and inflammation,” Pasternak says. ACE has an Instant Cold Compress that’s super convenient. “Give it a twist and you’ve got instant ice.”
- Do cardio. “A cardio workout increases blood flow and acts as a filter system. It brings nutrients like oxygen, protein, and iron to the muscles that you’ve been training and helps them recover faster. As the blood leaves the muscles, it takes some of the metabolic by-products with it (like carbon dioxide and lactic acid) that may be causing DOMS.”
- By Kylie Gilbert @KylieMGilbert
- By Kylie Gilbert and Chryso D’Angelo
Why your muscles feel sore a day or two after exercise, and what to do about it
If you have upped your training routine, returned to exercise after some time off or given a new activity a go, the chances are you have felt the characteristic ache of delayed onset muscle soreness (Doms).
You can find articles, columns, advice and tips at irishtimes.com/health, as well as in print every Tuesday in the Health & Family Supplement.
Usually kicking in around 24 to 48 hours after exercise, muscles feel tender and sore as a result of microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, which occurs when you force your muscles to work harder than they are used to, or use muscle groups that you don’t often reach in your regular workout. It can leave you feeling achy and stiff, with a walk around the office taking on a John Wayne feel.
Any exercise to which you’re unaccustomed can result in a bout of Doms, says Dr Mark Wotherspoon, a consultant in sport, exercise and musculoskeletal medicine. Simply put, he says, it suggests you are “doing too much too soon”.
“If you look under an electron microscope, you see that there’s a normal architecture and normal structure to the muscle fibre,” he says. “When you look under the electron microscope with Doms, the whole architecture is disrupted. Essentially, it is true muscle damage, but it’s at the muscle fibre level as opposed to a muscle tear that you would get when you’re running and your hamstring goes.”
Doms can last up to five days, with the effects usually worst on day two or three, then gradually improving without treatment. It is a normal part of building muscle strength and stamina, but coach Nick Anderson warns that it could be telling you it’s time to review your workout. “A lot of people like because it means they’ve worked really hard and it’s a great feeling, but if it’s excessive and you’re getting it all the time then I would be questioning either your recovery strategies or your training plan.”
You are more susceptible to injury for a period afterwards
Any changes should be gradual to allow muscles to adapt. “If you don’t get rid of that tightness and allow the muscle fibres to repair, you are more susceptible to injury for a period afterwards.”
In the days following the onset of Doms, Anderson says, “don’t hammer the same muscle group again”. Instead, he suggests using other muscle groups for a few days at the gym or, if you’re a runner, simply lessening the intensity. He also suggests incorporating a progressive warm-up, in which movements become gradually more intense, and not to skimp on the warm down.
Good quality sleep also plays a factor, when it comes to recovery. Although you will want to go easy on tender muscles, Wotherspoon doesn’t recommend completely abandoning your fitness routine. Instead, he advises incorporating light exercises. “If I ran on Monday and then on Tuesday was sore, I might go for a light bike ride or a little jog on Wednesday,” he says “So, exercising through it isn’t a bad thing, but exercising and ignoring it, and exercising hard, probably is not the best thing.”
Do avoid any hard workouts and the temptation to “push through it” when muscles are vulnerable, he says. “Your muscle capability is reduced, your muscle power is reduced and your muscles are tender.”
While nutrition can’t prevent Doms as “a natural part of the training adaptation process”, it may help reduce the effects, says sports dietician and ultrarunner Alexandra Cook. “Most nutritional interventions to reduce Doms are closely related to inflammatory response and aiding the rebuilding of damaged muscles.”
She recommends a portion of protein – the main nutrient needed for muscular repair – at each meal as well as snacks to support the recovery and muscle adaptation process. “Regular intake of carbohydrate is vital to replace muscle glycogen depleted during exercise. If you skimp on the carbohydrate, you run the risk of excessive protein (muscle) breakdown, which won’t contribute positively to the training process.”
Ted Munson, a performance nutritionist at Science in Sport, agrees that carbohydrate intake is key, although the amount to consume “depends on what you’re doing. If you’re undertaking high-intensity, prolonged-duration exercise like a half-marathon, you may need to consume 8-10g of carbs per kg of body mass per day. For shorter-duration, lower-intensity exercise, the demand may be reduced.”
Water is, as usual, key
Both Munson and Cook agree that eating something as soon as you can post-exercise is beneficial, with muscles primed to take on nutrients within 30 minutes of finishing exercise. Cook advises a simple carbohydrate and protein-based snack, while Munson suggests preparing a shake in advance; both recommend following this with a balanced meal within the next hour.
Water is, as usual, key, says Cook. Because muscles are made up of a high percentage of water, “even mild dehydration can make your Doms worse”. But although staying hydrated may reduce symptoms, it won’t speed up repair from muscle damage. Besides nutrition, elite athletes and novices alike swear by a number of recovery techniques, such as wearing compression clothing, using a foam roller and taking ice baths (who remembers the image of Andy Murray in an ice bath, clutching his Wimbledon trophy?) – but their effectiveness is debatable. Anderson is a fan of compression clothing and massage, but advises caution when it comes to foam rollers, which he believes can be “massively overvalued by people . . . It’s a very personal thing: some people get on with it very well, some people don’t, some people do too much of it and actually cause more bruising through the foam rolling than they would have caused through the exercise.”
Wotherspoon – currently lead medical officer at Southampton FC, and a medical officer for the England cricket team for more than a decade – says that, while compression stockings, ice baths, light exercises and sports massage play a part in the recovery programmes of elite athletes, it may be all in the mind. “There’s some evidence that it doesn’t matter which one of them you use, because the most effective recovery component is psychological,” he explains. “So, in other words, whatever makes you feel better, do. If you’re absolutely convinced that recovery stockings are the thing that helps you, crack on and use them; if you want to get in an ice bath, happy days. There’s no good scientific evidence that any one of those is any better.”
The best way to deal with Doms is to avoid it in the first place, he says. “If you do a very slow, graduated exercise programme, you’re much less likely to get Doms. It’s all about trying to ease people into exercise at a slow, steady pace.” – Guardian
Sign up for one of The Irish Times’ Get Running programmes (it is free!).
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
– Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
– 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!
12 Memes That Nail What It’s Like to Have Back Pain
Back pain is one of those conditions that comes with a lot of complexities. That being said, back pain is also super common, affecting 80 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Worldwide, it is the single leading cause of disability, and something many people struggle with on a daily basis.
Everyone experiences back pain differently, and one person’s pain can even change over time. One day, you might feel great and then be in pain the next. You might have your back pain under control, but then have to see a doctor to get the medicine that helps you. Or, physical therapy might be a regular aspect of your life that feels never-ending. Since back pain affects so many people, there’s a community out there that absolutely understands the difficulties of chronic back pain and can even laugh along with you through the regular struggles of it.
If you have back pain and need a good laugh, these memes are for you.
1. When you know you can do something, but your back pain stops you:
via dankmemeuniversity Tumblr
2. When you have to make the best out of physical therapy:
via @cjphysicaltherapy Instagram
3. When your back feels great one day and bad the next:
via @meme_queen_xox Instagram
4. When you take advantage of modern medicine:
via @spooniesis Instagram
5. When changing your position just a little bit relieves so much of your back pain:
via positive-memes Tumblr
6. When that one guy you barely know thinks he knows everything about your back pain:
via @spooniesis Instagram
7. When you sat in a desk with no lumbar support all day:
via @muppets_memes Instagram
8. When you have so much knowledge about back pain, but still struggle on your own:
via @spongebob.memepage Instagram
9. When adulthood just means extra back pain:
via @ccchiro2015 Instagram
10. When your doctor orders tests for your back, but the scans show nothing new:
via Chronic pain memes Facebook
11. When someone tells you yoga will fix your back pain:
12. When one little thing exhausts your back:
via @hairdresser.onfire Instagram
12 Memes That Are All of Us After Leg Day
Leg Day = D-Day
Finding the time to workout has never been easy, much less finding the time to go five days a week.
But somehow we manage and we get to the gym, anxious to find out what this session holds — this is for those of us who don’t have the willpower to create our own gym regimen, mind you. And every day is like a box of chocolates except with all the nasty coconut flavors instead of caramel and white chocolate to choose from. You just don’t know what you’re getting when you go in to see your trainer.
And, whether it’s core, butt, or leg day, they’re all dreaded. However, leg day takes the cake for the worst of the worst. Why? Well, I’m pretty sure it’s because it’s the only part of your body you can’t go without engaging.
Think about it! Even the most sedentary person has to engage their legs and to do so after leg day burns like hell.
Nevertheless, you persist and you power through leg day and the hundred million jump-squats that your trainer painfully spews at you. Because there’s no doubt in your mind that you want the legs to match your naturally lifted and plumped butt.
The entire 45-minute leg portion of your workout you keep imagining yourself in that string of a bikini, laid out on somebody’s beach since that’s literally the only thing that will get you through.
Then, it happens. You leave your workout, and suddenly after forty-five minutes of working with your legs, they suddenly turn into noodles and give out. How? Why? I don’t know, but it always happens as soon as gym sesh ends. It’s like your legs were in a state of shock the entire time and that’s what kept them moving because as soon as you make it out, you become paralyzed.
You know what feeling I’m talking about, and that’s why you’ll get a kick out of these 12 leg day memes that are really and truly ALL OF US after leg day.
Cry It Out
- By Lauren Mazzo @lauren_mazzo
Anyone who does the gym knows that it’s an accomplishment in and of itself that you can walk to the car as opposed to having to crawl. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to though.
Can’t move, won’t move. Just leave me for dead after leg day.
Masochism at its finest. It feels so bad, it can’t be wrong.
On days like this “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” is a way of life.
Squats for Fun
But when people try to hang out and do sh*t that takes away from your work, you suddenly become a hermit. You aren’t going through all of this pain to blow it all on drinks.
It’s like I said earlier: your legs continue moving in a state of shock but as soon as the workout ends THIS. IS. YOU.
New Reading Material
Google please tell me my condition before I die. How long does this last? Am I going to turn into Serena Williams after all this pain? What is the meaning of this?
Dear gym trainer, this doesn’t mean MORE legs. Stop harassing me.
Back for More
When reality hits, that the only way the pain will end is if you go back and put yourself through more.
If you find that I’m walking like my legs are all broken into pieces, it’s because they probably are. Or, they feel like it.
As much as you’re crying for help, there’s nothing anyone can do. You just have to ride it out … until the next leg day.
I don’t want to do anything, so please don’t ask. Just don’t.
14 Stages of Being Sore After a Workout
1. You just finished your workout, feeling good but exhausted.
But as your body cools down, you realize the next 12-72 hours are going to be hell.
2. You’ve got some serious stiffness going on. It’s not too painful-yet. But you know what’s coming.
You hydrate, refuel, and settle in for some beauty (and recovery) sleep. (Which is super important for weight loss, FYI.)
3. You roll over in the middle of the night and realize that EVERYTHING HURTS.
Nothing can save you now. (Except for these sore-muscle treatments. Maybe.)
4. In the morning, you go to swing your legs out of bed and happily yank off the covers, but…
Then you realize you feel like you got hit by a truck. LOL JK I’m staying right here.
5. But you have to go to work/class/adulting, so you slowly peel yourself out of bed.
This may include slowly moving one limb at a time or rolling like a log straight onto the floor. (Fingers crossed your feet catch you).
6. All your normal tasks are extremely difficult.
Getting a coffee mug off the top shelf suddenly seems impossible. And bending down to put your shoes on…LOLOL.
7. Once you get moving a little, it’s not so bad. And then you come to a staircase, and it’s all over.
Just leave me here to die.
8. And you walk like…well, like this.
This has got to be the sexiest thing ever.
9. You’re so sore that you can’t even think about working out for a few days.
Active recovery can mean laying on the couch, right? Yoga is NOT gonna happen.
10. Cue hours of foam rolling. It hurts so good.
Praise the heavens for foam rollers. Although that creepy trainer is definitely mistaking your “ow” face for an “O” face.
11. You will do almost anything to get someone to give you a massage.
Like, unmentionable, terrible things.
12. And you hope that when you get up the next day, you’ll feel like a human being again.
But actually you feel even worse. So it’s another day of death.
13. Eventually, you start to feel mobile again.
After hurting so badly, just being able to move feels like the best thing in the world.
14. But, naturally, you go back to the gym and it starts allllll over again.
Hello, vicious #gainz cycle.
Your muscles make every pullup, press, jump, crunch, run, squat, and curl possible. But after a brutal workout, taking a single step can feel like the greatest form of punishment. That’s because vigorous exercise causes small tears in muscle fibers, leading to an immune reaction as the body gets to work repairing the injured cells. Any type of soreness indicates that your muscles have been broken down. And while “broken down” isn’t synonymous with “injured,” it does mean that your muscles are compromised. That discomfort you feel 12-48 hours after a squat-heavy workout? It’s known as “delayed onset muscle soreness”.
Some soreness is inevitable—in fact, it can be a sign of a good workout. But, to make the most of your sweat sessions, knowing how to prevent and cure (or at least alleviate) sore muscles and muscle damage is key. Here are 21 ways to do just that.
Know the difference between soreness and a strain
Knowledge is power—and identifying the cause of your pain is key to recoverying quickly, or ending up sidelined for a while. Muscle soreness can last up to 72 hours, so if you find the feeling of pain in your muscles is lasting a week or more, you may have a strain. It’s important to listen to your body. A strain occurs when those same muscles that are torn during exercise are torn in larger amounts and to more significant degrees—and takes several weeks to heal. Check in with your doctor if you feel like your soreness is beyond “just” soreness.
Keep switching up your workouts
If you are constantly doing the exact same routine, the minute you try something new the muscles you haven’t been incorporating are going to suffer tenfold on the soreness scale. Try different workouts, like swimming, rowing, running, or boxing, to build total-body strength so you can keep all of your muscles ready for anything.
Eating protein won’t reduce muscle soreness, but it will help your muscles recover more quickly so you don’t feel the pain as long. Consuming 10g of whey protein before and 10g of whey protein following your workout will help reduce symptoms of DOMS, according to a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Wearing compression garments can help speed up muscle recovery when you’re sore. Try TINTIN weighted compression shorts (which come with gel inserts to heat or cool muscles) or any of this compression gear for post-workout recovery.
Get a massage
Many pro athletes swear by this tried and true method, and work massages into their weekly training plans. “In prep for Rio, the past four years of my training has included less swimming and more recovery,” says three-time Paralympic medalist Tucker Dupree. “Massages have made a huge difference there.” Scheduling a bi-weekly or once-monthly deep tissue massage is worth it, and it’s backed by science.
Take a day off
Since sore muscles are already compromised with slight damage, it’s important to not keep pushing through the pain with tougher workouts. “Soreness is your body saying, ‘Hey, you broke me a little bit, so let me build back up,’” says Aguillard. So, consider a total rest day if the soreness is intense.
Do some light activity
That said, there are benefits to a recovery workout in lieu of total rest. Light activity can alleviate soreness just as well as a massage, according to research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Go out for a light 20-minute jog, swim, bike ride, or row session the day after a demanding workout.
Drinking enough water ensures that those nasty toxins trapped in your muscles that make DOMS even worse get flushed out faster, and that your muscles are hydrated enough to stay supple. Dehydrated muscles become tight and easily injured, so try to keep them hydrated by drinking at least half of your bodyweight in ounces of water a day.
Have certain muscles that always feel tight and restricted? Roll them out with a foam roller before you work out to mobilize the muscles, get blood flowing, and keep overuse injuries at bay. “You should foam roll the muscles that get sore often so that you can get full range of motion and build strength in muscles that may be underdeveloped,” says Brooke Ficara, DPT, at Spear Physical Therapy in NYC. Foam rolling is also great post-workout even if it hurts so good.
Consider upgrading your go-to roller for The VYPER, a cutting-edge roller that uses both pressure and vibration to improve circulation and work on tight muscles. The VYPER uses three different speed settings powered by rechargeable lithium ion batteries.
Prime your muscles
For example, if you have a heavy squat session planned, do a few unilateral bridge exercises before picking up the weights to warm up the muscles you want to engage. This prevents excessive soreness and also imbalances that result in overuse injuries of more dominant muscles, such as hip flexors or hamstrings.
Drink cherry juice
One study found that drinking tart cherry juice for one week leading up to a strenuous running event (like a marathon) could help minimize post-run muscle pains and strains. Another study found cherry supplements (1 pill had the anti-inflammatory content of about 100 cherries) reduced muscle soreness by 24% two days after a strenuous resistance workout. And yet another study found post-lift strength loss was reduced 18% among those who drank cherry juice before their workouts.
Take a nap
Research suggests taking a nap around two hours after a workout helps the body enter deep, restorative states of sleep, which releases natural growth hormones to improve musculature and helps your body to repair.
Alternate muscle groups
While many advocate two days between workouts involving the same muscle group, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for recovery time. So the best assurance that you are giving your muscles the rest they need in between workouts is to alternate the muscle groups that you focus on each day.
Soak in an Epsom salt bath
Using Epsom salts in a bath soak isn’t just Grandma’s trick, it’s backed by science to help muscle restoration by supplying your body with the muscle-relaxing mineral Magnesium. Magnesium is a primary component of Epsom salt. It’s a mineral that the body needs, and, unlike other minerals, is absorbed through the skin as you soak in the bath.
According to studies, the muscle’s primary fuel source during exercise, glycogen, is replenished more rapidly when athletes have some caffeine with their post-workout carbs. Research results show that athletes who ingested caffeine with carbohydrates had 66% more glycogen in their muscles four hours after finishing intense, glycogen-depleting exercise, compared to when they consumed carbohydrates alone.
Build up your tolerance
In other words, don’t overdo it when you up your intensity. If you normally run five miles at a given pace, then don’t go much above six miles on the next run. For lifting weights, if you normally complete four sets of arms-intensive exercises, don’t go above five sets the next time. If you exceed the 10-20% increase threshold, the chances of experiencing severe muscle soreness soars.
Get some vitamin C
Vitamin C is shown to be effective in helping to prevent muscle soreness. Incorporate chili peppers, guavas, and citrus fruits—which are all high in vitamin C—into your diet.
Invest in some technology
NormaTec sleeves are recovery leggings that use “dynamic compression” with a peristaltic pulse that squeezes and travels up the leg from the bottom to the top to increase blood flow. Ironman record holders, the Boston Celtics, and Ryan Hall all swear by the high-tech system to speed up recovery.
Eat some kiwi
Everyone knows that potassium is a go-to nutrient to keep muscle cramps and soreness at bay, but you don’t have to eat bananas by the bunch to get your potassium. Two kiwis supply more than 540mg of potassium (16% of the daily value) for 100 calories. One extra-large banana also delivers 16% of the daily value for potassium, but it also contains 25% more calories than a serving of kiwi. Bananas are also higher in sugar and carbs than kiwis.
Try a topical cream
Think of your typical topical pain reliever as a good standby for quick relief. Rock Sauce packs a combo of hot and cold relief, thanks to ingredients methyl salicylate, menthol, and capsaicin.
Cut back on the booze
Sorry about this one, but research suggests more than one or two drinks after working out could reduce the body’s ability to recover.
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Try This: 12 Exercises to Relieve Hip and Lower Back Pain
Choose 3 or 4 of these exercises for one workout, completing 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps each. Mix and match from session to session, if possible.
Start with your feet double shoulder-width apart, toes slightly out. Shift your weight to your right leg and push your hips back as if you’re going to sit in a chair.
Drop as low as you can go while keeping your left leg straight. Ensure that your chest stays up and your weight is on your right heel.
Return to start, then repeat the same steps on the other leg. This is one rep.
Side lying leg raise
If you have an exercise band to use during this move, great. If not, bodyweight will certainly do.
Lay on your right side with your legs straight and stacked on top of each other, propping yourself up with your elbow. If you’re using an exercise band, position it just above your knees.
Keeping your hips stacked, engage your core and lift your left leg straight up as far as you can. Slowly lower back down. Repeat on other side.
Start on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips.
Keeping your left leg bent, raise it directly out to the side until your thigh is parallel to the floor — like a dog at a fire hydrant.
Ensure your neck and back are straight and your core stays engaged throughout this move. Slowly lower back down. Repeat on other side.
Grab an exercise band and get to steppin’! Place it around your ankles or just above your knees, bend your knees slightly, and side shuffle, feeling your hips working with each step.
Make sure to keep your feet pointing straight ahead while side stepping. After 10 to 12 steps in one direction, stop and go the other way.
Single-leg glute bridge
This is a more advanced move. Popping one leg up during a bridge will wake up your glutes and allow you to really feel a stretch in your stationary hip.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor as you would with a regular glute bridge. Extend your right leg before you push yourself off the ground, using your core and glutes to do so.
Also known as a glute kickback, the donkey kick helps to strengthen the hip by isolating this movement.
To perform, get on all fours. Keeping your right knee bent, lift your left foot up toward the sky. Keep your foot flat during the entirety of the move, engaging your glutes.
Push your foot up toward the ceiling as high as you can without tilting your pelvis for maximum impact.