- Warning Signs That You’re Pushing Yourself Too Hard In the Gym
- 3 Natural Remedies for Muscle Recovery
- We tried working out with U.S. Olympians
- 1. Start with the basics
- 2. Consider CBD
- 3. Get in some (very light) cardio
- Recovery Done Right: 7 Ways to Help Relieve Sore Muscles
- How to Relieve Sore Muscles
- Are You Too Sore to Work Out?
- Should You Take a Painkiller to Relieve Muscle Soreness?
Warning Signs That You’re Pushing Yourself Too Hard In the Gym
“No pain, no gain” has its limits. And that “hurts so good” post-workout soreness isn’t always as good as you might think.
Often the very things that we think signal awesome fitness progress actually are warning signs to slow the heck down, explains Minnesota-based exercise physiologist Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. It’s important to listen to your body and what it’s really saying. Don’t listen, and your exercise could wind up working against you, actually triggering muscle loss and fat gain. Plus, pushing too hard comes with a huge risk of injury-and all of your training won’t do you much good if you’re sidelined on race day.
So how do you push past your comfort zone-without pushing your fitness off a cliff? Keep your eyes peeled for these four warning signs.
1. You Dread Your Workouts
“Your fitness routine should be one of the most fun things you do all day long. So if you’re not smiling, its important to think about why,” says sports medicine physician Jordan Metzl, M.D., author of The Exercise Cure. After all, “just not feeling” your workouts is one of the first symptoms of overdoing it, often appearing before any of the other warning signs on this list.
Sure, we all have days when getting to the gym is a struggle-but once you crank up the tunes and start sweating, you should perk up. “If you still feel like crap halfway through your workout, leave,” Nelson says. Go home, take a look at your training log, and brainstorm some ways to switch things up. Maybe it’s time to try out a new workout routine or fitness class. Also, if your workout routine doesn’t include at least one to two full rest days per week, add those in, he says. You can, however, minimize the number of full rest days you need by breaking up your high-intensity or endurance workouts with some light gentle workouts like yoga or swimming.
2. You’re So Freaking Sore
“A lot of people think they need to be really sore the day after their workouts,” Nelson says. “But soreness isn’t a super-good indicator of progress.” That’s because you should feel intense delayed onset muscle soreness about 24 to 48 hours only after completing a workout that’s brand spanking new. After performing the same workout two, three, or four times…not so much.
So, if you’re weeks or months into a consistent workout routine and still find yourself limping around the house on a regular basis, something’s likely wrong with your workouts, Nelson says. It’s also important to also notice when you feel sore. Is it during that 24- to- 48-hour window? If it starts up less than a day after your workout, or if it lingers for more than two days, you are experiencing more than DOMS. You could have an overuse injury and need to give the muscle a rest. Fight the urge to static stretch-which could exacerbate any microtears in the muscle-and instead opt for foam rolling. Once the pain has completely subsided, ease back into your workout routine, reducing intensity or frequency this time around.
3. Your Joints Hurt
While overuse injuries can and do affect muscles, they most often strike in and around the joints. “If you ever feel pain in your joints, stop what you are doing immediately,” Metzl says. “You should never feel pain in your joints while exercising.”
Take a few days off of your workouts-or at least any exercise moves that affect the iffy joint-and prioritize RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Once your joint is pain-free and you feel ready to head back into the gym, focus on quality over quantity. Many exercisers get caught up in a “go hard or go home” mentality and end up sacrificing form and technique in favor of intensity, Nelson says. However, if you perform every exercise with proper form (even if that means going down in weights or reps), you’ll get more out of each exercise session while also keeping the injury from recurring.
4. Your Workout Performances (and Results) Suck
If you’re in week five of your workout routine, and you can’t run as fast or lift as much as you could two weeks ago, it’s important to realize that you’re not backsliding because you aren’t working hard enough. Rather, you’re backsliding because you’re working too hard, Nelson says. Remember, exercise stresses your body, and unless you also give it sufficient time to recover, your workouts merely serve to break you down. That’s why, if you find your workout performance heading downhill, you will probably also notice your muscle gain and fat loss plateauing, or even reversing.
The simplest fix is to cut your training volume by half or more, he says. So, for instance, if you generally perform four sets of 10 reps of a given exercise, switch to two sets of 10 reps using the same weight. If you take a cycling class six times per week, cut that down to three. And if you usually run 5 miles four days per week, complete your runs at half pace, cut them to 2.5 miles each, or eliminate two running days per week. You don’t have to completely ditch your workouts to get back on the right side of fitness progress.
- By By K. Aleisha Fetters
Sometimes it feels like we’re on our feet the entire day – and even if we’re not, it’s common for legs to feel tired, achy, uncomfortable or restless. We’ve spoken to a whole host of experts to find out the best ways to remedy this – and ensure your legs are feeling energised once again.
From bath hacks to yoga poses, here’s what you should be doing if you’ve noticed your legs are lagging behind and need a boost (and if your symptoms start bothering you on a regular basis, always speak to your GP to rule out anything more serious).
1. Run a bath, pronto
“Epsom salt is the household name for magnesium sulphate, which releases magnesium and sulphate ions when added to water,” explains Sarah Mayo, a qualified personal trainer and the co-founder of wellbeing company Point3Wellbeing. “Some studies have suggested that soaking in Epsom salts helps to replenish the body of magnesium.”
2. Give yourself permission to chill
Most of us know the benefits of cold therapy – think about that relieving cold pack to soothe muscle pain – but doing it on the go can prove tricky. Deep Freeze Pain Relief Glide-On Gel works like ice – delivering a fast, cooling action and soothing relief from any sharp, shooting pain in swollen or inflamed feet and legs. Even better, this scientifically-proven cold therapy in a handbag size can be used as often as required wherever you are. No cumbersome cool-box required…
3. Stretch it out
According to physiotherapist Aaron Armoogum, stretching is key to keeping our legs feeling happy and pain-free. “Tight hip flexors will alter the tilt of your pelvis which is a nightmare when it comes to lower limb and lumbar issues – it can cause a lot of aching and discomfort,” he says. “Equally important are our glutes and piriformis (muscles in the buttocks).
“To get started, a really simple hip flexor stretch is to bend your right knee while standing, and hold your ankle from behind. Bring your heel towards your backside as far as you can, and feel the stretch across the front of your thigh. Just make sure you don’t bend at the hips and make it too easy!”
4. Take it down a notch
We’re all busy and sometimes, the idea of ‘resting’ seems laughable. But it’s just as important as anything else on your to-do list, says Aaron. “When it comes to exercise, a lot of people I see tend to ‘over-train’ or repetitively do the same workout or exercise over and over. Without allowing the body to rest and actually repair itself can potentially lead to long term chronic pain. I always recommend resting as much as you need to – it’s when our body grows, recovers and recuperates. Lack of rest can contribute not just to aching legs, but a feeling of general fatigue or exhaustion too. Nobody wants that!”
5. Pose like a pro
According to yoga teacher Hannah Lovegrove there’s a simple fix for tiredness from physical exertion. She explains, “I’d recommend yoga pose, Virasana – also known as ‘Hero Pose’. The compression effect is deeply refreshing for the leg muscles, knee and ankle joints and it leaves the legs feeling light and fully stretched.
“Try it yourself: Kneel down with your knees together and feet apart with a big cushion or some blocks behind you, between your feet. Sit down on the support and if it’s painful for your knees, add more height. Sit tall, hands resting on your thighs, for 2-4 minutes. When you come out of the pose, stretch your legs forward for a few seconds, to straighten the knee ligaments.”
6. Put your feet up
Yes, really – we insist. Hannah has another smart move that can reduce swelling or restlessness in the lower legs, when needed. “Inverted Lake Pose (known as viparita karani in yoga) is great if you’ve been on your feet or in a stationary position for a long time, since our blood and lymph flow can become sluggish. Sit close to and facing a wall then swivel sideways and take your legs straight up the wall as you lie down, back flat against the floor. Wriggle in, so your bottom is touching the wall and give it ten minutes before standing up.” Legs feeling refreshed?
7. Keep sipping
How much water do you drink? Dawn Morse Msc, a sports science lecturer and founder of Core Elements says we should all be reaching for the H20 on a more regular basis. “Staying hydrated, especially during warmer summer months, can help to reduce muscle cramping,” she explains. “The main reason for this is that it helps to regulate our mineral levels, which can lead to muscle cramping when out of sync. If you’ve been doing a lot of exercise in the heat, or sweating more than normal, you could consider adding an electrolytes supplement too.”
8. Ditch the extra salt
Did you know in some instances, modifying your diet can help with leg pain? According to Dawn, “research has shown that diets low in potassium, calcium or magnesium can lead to muscle cramps, so we should aim to include foods like sweet potatoes, squash and broccoli (which are full of potassium) yogurt, sardines, lentils and cheese (for calcium) and spinach, quinoa and tofu (for magnesium). If your salt intake is high thanks to processed foods and added salt, aim to lower it – along with muscle and leg pain, it can lead to dehydration and raised blood pressure,” Dawn explains.
9. Walk it out
Exercise and stretching has been shown to help with leg pain – especially aches and discomfort that gets worse as the day continues or is chronic in nature – meaning moving around a bit can really help.
“Aim to walk briskly for 20-30 minutes a day,” says Dawn. “It’s not only good for the heart, but it helps to strengthen and stretch leg muscles as well as improve the quality of the muscles – all smart moves for anybody experiencing discomfort, cramps or a tired sensation in the legs.” And since Deep Freeze Glide-on Gel promises no mess and an easy glide-on application, it’s worth throwing in your bag for cooling, targeted relief on-the-go, too. Happy strolling!
Experts quoted in this article do not endorse any brands.
For a cool, soothing way to relieve tired or sore legs Deep Freeze Pain Relief Glide-On Gel is your friend.
3 Natural Remedies for Muscle Recovery
by: Stella Van Lane
It doesn’t really matter if you’re an experienced fitness enthusiast or exercise novice – you’re highly likely to experience muscle soreness after an intense sweat session. Of course, it’s a completely normal thing that often can’t be avoided, which is why your muscles will need some time to properly heal and recover after a workout. There are lots of fantastic natural remedies that can speed up the process of muscle recovery, and I’ve come up with a list of three amazing ones you can start incorporating into your post-workout routine ASAP:
First things first: what causes muscle soreness?
The most common causes of muscle soreness are stress, tension, overuse, and minor injuries, but the good news is that this type of pain is usually localized. This means that it affects only a few muscles or a small part of your body – the one(s) you’ve been focusing on during your workout. Did you know that your muscles are made from protein fibers which tend to get damaged every time you exercise? Well, that’s exactly why your body needs to recover after an intense workout, so that your muscles heal properly and get much stronger. Apart from eating the right foods and getting enough good sleep, there are also a handful of natural remedies that can speed up the process of muscle recovery. Here are three I find most useful:
Magnesium to the Rescue
The first natural remedy that deserves its rightful place on our list is magnesium, which is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. Apart from helping maintain a healthy heartbeat, it regulates muscle contractions as well, which is crucial for muscle recovery. Basically it acts as a natural calcium blocker to help your muscles relax. If your body doesn’t have enough magnesium to compete with calcium, it’s highly likely that your muscles may contract too much, and that will inevitably result in spasms or cramps. If you’re experiencing these after a workout, you can either apply magnesium oil topically or take magnesium supplements orally. Of course, you should also incorporate foods rich in magnesium into your everyday diet, so start with almonds, sesame seeds, spinach, black beans and cocoa powder, and you’ll see a nice improvement in soreness gradually.
CBD can be Quite Helpful
The stigma around marijuana is shifting slowly but surely, and we must say that an element of cannabis plays a huge role in treating inflammation and muscle soreness. Did you know that there are two natural compounds which can be found in cannabis – cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)? CBD is what we want to focus on for this topic, and is found mainly in extractions from the hemp plant. It’s sold if the form of oils, supplements, gels, extracts and more, whereas the latter one (THC) is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. In case you weren’t aware of it, CBD is mostly used to combat a wide range of injuries, joint pain, and even anxiety, which is exactly why it’s helpful during the process of muscle recovery. All you have to do is to learn what CBD really is and find out more about its main properties, and you’ll quickly realize that CBD is extremely helpful when it comes to healing and post-workout recovery.
Apple Cider Vinegar is Where it’s At
Last but certainly not least, apple cider vinegar is another amazing treatment for the sore muscles and cramps you may experience after exercise. Similarly to magnesium, you can either drink it or rub it directly on the area where you’re experiencing soreness. The majority of people actually use it to treat leg cramps, which are sometimes caused by a lack of potassium in their body. Needless to say, apple cider vinegar is rich in potassium and it can therefore fill this nutritional gap. Besides that, it can reduce your risk of developing muscle cramps, while reducing the pain associated with pre-existing cramps at the same time. All you have to do is to mix a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drink it down, or even drink a full tablespoon of it straight like a shot. When picking the best apple cider vinegar, look for a glass bottle and the label that says ‘raw and organic’. If you see something a bit gross floating around the bottom – that’s actually what you’re looking for! It’s a result of fermentation and it offers healthy bacteria that will support your gut health, too. That’s what we call killing two birds with one stone!
As you can see, there are a lot of amazing natural remedies that can speed up the process of muscle recovery. Magnesium, CBD oil, and apple cider vinegar are some of the best ones out there, so make sure to give them a try and you’ll see what all the talk is about. And don’t forget – a little foam rolling can go a long way as well when seeking relief and recovery for your muscles 😉
Stella van Lane is a blogger and mental health advocate based in Sydney. She spends her free time blogging. Stella is in love with coffee, chocolate, music, books and good vibes. Her top interests are health, yoga, meditation and interior design. She enjoys helping other people by sharing her experience and knowledge. Find her on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/StellaVanLane
“This is going to hurt tomorrow.” We’ve all said it after a particularly grueling workout or return to the gym after an extended break.
Delayed onset muscle soreness, commonly referred to as DOMS, describes the muscular pain and stiffness that occurs following a heavy workload. It typically peaks around 24 to 48 hours after leaving the gym, explains exercise physiologist Matt Unthank, CSCS, director of training for Crossover Symmetry. “While the process is complicated and remains to be entirely understood, it is widely viewed as an inflammatory response due to a breakdown in muscles tissue.”
But that breakdown’s not necessarily a bad thing. “For a fit person who exercises regularly, I would actually view the occasional attack of DOMS as a good thing,” says Unthank. “It suggests an elevation in intensity and the inclusion of novel movements to a workout program, both of which are extremely good things for a training program.” After all, for your muscles to repair, grow and become stronger, you first have to give them something to repair. And we’re talking about the same microscopic tears in the muscles that can leave you waddling the morning after your workout.
So how can you kill the pain without killing your results? Just turn to these five research-proven strategies.
5 Ways to Reduce Muscle Soreness, STAT
The science: Research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that marathoners consuming tart cherry juice five days before, on the day of, and 48 hours following their races reduced muscle soreness. And how’s this for the cherry on top? The athletes also showed signs of improved muscle recovery and function. Tart cherries are rich in anthocyanins, colorful antioxidant compounds that are believed to work their magic by decreasing excess inflammation.
Try it: “Under regular training conditions, good nutrition is enough to get antioxidants where they need to be,” Unthank says. But for an extra boost, you can work tart cherries, or just their juice, into your regular diet. A couple of servings per week, along with a generally nutrient-rich diet, is plenty during typical training. However, if you are gearing up for marathon, it can be beneficial to switch to a once-daily plan. Don’t like cherries? Red raspberries are another great source.
2. Drinking Coffee
The science: Multiple studies show that pre-workout caffeine consumption can reduce subsequent muscle soreness and fatigue. In one study published in the Journal of Pain, the strategy scored exercisers a 48 percent drop in DOMS. Apart from generally making everything better, caffeine has analgesic (pain-killing properties), which is why it is commonly contained in over-the-counter pain medications.
Get the better newsletter.
Try it: An hour before a particularly grueling workout, drink two cups of coffee (the amount of caffeine used in the Journal of Pain study). Bonus: 2014 PLOS ONE research shows that coffee hydrates as well as water, which is important to keep in mind when trying to combat muscle pain. Getting dehydrated during your workouts can significantly exacerbate symptoms of DOMS, according to the Journal of Athletic Training.
We tried working out with U.S. Olympians
Feb. 23, 201802:13
3. Getting a Massage
The science: Finally, justification for those spa days. Research from a 2014 study found that a post-exercise massage can significantly reduce pain. And over the long term, regularly getting massages may increase your body’s ability to fight off DOMS. Another 2015 study showed that massaged muscles contain more blood vessels than massage-free ones, which may result in improved recovery. They also display only half of the scar tissue that non-massaged muscles do. Not bad for some low-key me-time.
Try it: Schedule your sports massage directly following your workout. In the study, immediate massage was more effective at promoting tissue regeneration and reducing fibrosis compared to massage delayed 48 hours after exercise.
4. Foam Rolling
The science: Similar to massage, foam rolling is all about myofascial release, which relieves tension in the muscle’s connective tissue. And your trainer is right: Research has found that rolling out your muscles like dough can help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness. It can also improve performance in subsequent workouts.
Try it: Invest in a foam roller (we’re big fans of the TriggerPoint Grid), and spend about 10 to 15 minutes with it each day. You can make it part of your warm-up, cool-down, and on days that you don’t work out, part of overall recovery. (Also, check out these five moves that might be missing from your rolling repertoire.)
5. Performing Recovery Workouts
The science: Consider this permission to turn down the dial from time to time. In one 2012 study, women who performed a 20-minute bout of low- or moderate-intensity cycling immediately following their DOMS-inducing strength workouts enjoyed a reduction in muscle pain along with a added boost in strength. “Light recovery workouts increase blood flow, which does a number of things to naturally nudge the inflammatory process along, such as lymphatic draining, moving immune cells, and clearing inflammatory mediators,” Unthank explains.
Try it: Cool down from your workouts with some light cardio, and schedule low-intensity, recovery-focused workouts throughout the week, he says. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t!) go heavy during every single workout for ultimate results. Aerobic exercise, like jogging or cycling as well as yoga, Pilates and other low-impact workouts are all great options for keeping DOMS at bay.
Other Recovery Methods
Epsom salts, cold compresses, ice baths — a lot of other pain-relieving techniques top the lists of weekend warriors and professional athletes alike. But not all are well-studied or have conclusive findings, Unthank says.
For instance, you’ll mostly find anecdotal evidence backing the use of post-exercise Epsom salt baths. And emerging evidence suggests that cold therapy might not be the pain reliever everyone thought it was. In one British Journal of Sports Medicine study, for example, three one-minute ice-water immersions were ineffective at reducing DOMs in a group of 40 exercisers. Contrary to popular opinion, research also shows that static stretching — whether performed before or after exercise — doesn’t reduce DOMS.
So what’s behind the rave reviews on these other methods? While it’s totally possible that there really is a benefit (and research just hasn’t caught up yet), a placebo effect could also be at play, Unthank says. In the end, it’s best to stick with science-backed strategies as your staples. If you want to supplement with other techniques, by all means. As long as you feel like it helps your post-workout soreness (and, of course, doesn’t pose any health risks), what’s the harm? If anything, those happier muscles just might be all in your head.
This story originally appeared on Life by Daily Burn.
NEXT: What happens to your body when you skip the gym
Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
On the day after leg day, the mere act of sitting down on the couch can seem like the most difficult task in the world. Netflix binging difficulties aside, though, nursing sore muscles after a workout isn’t necessarily a bad sign. “Muscle soreness happens when you either do a new exercise that requires the use of different muscles you’re not accustomed to working, or it could be the product of strenuous exertion,” says Akin Akman, co-founder of AARMY. “It’s good in the sense that you’ve worked to your capacity. I associate muscle soreness to progress.”
In the meantime, though, the fruits of your labor can be really unpleasant. So we asked a few experts about the tricks they use to fight post-exercise muscle soreness and get back into gym- or run- or spin-ready shape as soon as possible. You’ve probably heard some of these tips before. Others are a little more unconventional. But on days when every movement is accompanied by a wince, they all might be worth a shot.
1. Start with the basics
The amount of sleep you need varies based on your activity level, which means you should try to get as much sleep as possible when your body aches just won’t go away. Studies show that meditation can help reduce chronic pain in adults, too. “Mental and emotional health are a big part of conditioning and proper recovery,” Akman says. “Always get a good night’s sleep, but also, take naps midday when you need to.”
Similarly, you can’t eat chips for dinner and expect to feel better. (This is true, it should be noted, even if you didn’t work out recently.) This regimen can be as simple as a post-workout protein shake, or a lot more involved than that. “After heavy training sessions, I always make sure I drink my protein and fast-acting carbs to help the muscle healing process,” explains Yavuz Akman, a founding trainer at AARMY. “Usually about 10 minutes after that, I take vitamin C and B-12 (for antioxidants and red blood cell production). An hour after that, I typically eat chicken and rice. I always make sure I drink a lot of water throughout the day as well. This is so important for proper recovery and alleviating extreme soreness.”
2. Consider CBD
Studies on the effects of CBD aren’t conclusive, but many people swear by it to help them get a good night’s rest and alleviate muscle pain. One recent study found that regular consumption of CBD reduced the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in saliva, which suggests that it needs to be a regular habit in order for people to see results.
“CBD can work to decrease inflammation in the body, reduce muscle soreness through the use of rubs or salves, and balance our stress response, whether physical or mental,” says Jason Loebig, a trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp in Chicago. “It’s best utilized immediately post-workout or before bed (especially in tincture form) to recover from intense physical activity or aid with sleep.”
3. Get in some (very light) cardio
You need to prepare your muscles for intense weight training—which means if you go to the gym without warming up, you’re allowing your muscles to experience delayed-onset soreness, or DOMS, that much quicker. Warm-ups matter because they boost blood circulation, which is what helps muscles heal. And while you can’t go back in time and change what you did before you did whatever it was that made you so sore, you can start changing your approach when you make your glorious gym return.
While your kidneys and liver are ultimately responsible for filtering out toxins (after all, it’s our organs, not anything we eat or drink, that detox our bodies) staying hydrated may help move along this process—and staying hydrated is always a good idea anyway.
3. Do some light stretching.
Again, the keyword is light. Stretching can be a great way to release tightness and increase your range of motion when you’re sore—which can make you feel better, even though it’s not actually healing the tears in your muscles or making them repair any faster. But more isn’t always more. “You have to be careful,” says Seedman. “Doing some light stretching can be good, but trying to overstretch the muscle when it feels extremely tight can actually cause the muscle to come back even tighter because the body is trying to resist it,” he says.
So how do you know how far is too far? “Stretch until it feels pretty tight, let up after 5 to 10 seconds, and then repeat that, without ever getting to the point where it feels unbearable,” says Seedman. If it’s too painful to even think about stretching, skip it—it’s really just about getting some temporary relief if you can.
4. Make sure you’re getting enough protein.
Protein is a critical nutrient for building and maintaining muscle, so it plays a huge role in helping your muscles recover from a tough workout.
While you should be eating enough protein all the time to prevent recurring or long-lasting soreness from your workouts, says Seedman, it can still be helpful to double check that you’re eating enough protein after the damage is done. “You can almost make the argument that that’s going to be as vital as light exercise ,” he says.
This doesn’t mean excessively high amounts of protein, necessarily. While needs vary, people who work out should aim for about 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For an active person who’s 150 pounds, that’s about 95 to 136 grams per day, split up between all your meals.
5. Try heat or ice to ease the pain.
The debate between heat therapy and cold therapy is ongoing, but when it comes down to it, it’s really just about what feels good to you—for the most part, the effects are temporary. But when you’re super sore, any fleeting relief (as long as it’s safe) is worth it.
Ice can help reduce the swelling that sometimes comes along with extreme soreness, says Seedman. Bringing the swelling down can help reduce some pain-causing tension. Elevating your legs (if that’s where you’re sore) can also help with this.
However, heat can also minimize tension and pain signals, says Seedman. So if relaxing in a warm bath makes you feel better, do that. McCall also notes that this may help with circulation.
Overall, time will heal all soreness—as long as it’s not something more serious.
While you’re recovering, it’s also important to watch for signs of something more serious. A syndrome called rhabdomyolysis occurs when over-worked muscle fibers die and release the protein myoglobin into the bloodstream, which can lead to kidney damage and even failure. This is a medical emergency, and along with extreme muscle pain, weakness, and swelling, the main sign is often cola-colored urine. If you notice these signs, get to a doctor ASAP.
If you experience sharp pain during your workout, or if the soreness doesn’t start improving after a couple of days, that can be a sign that you’re actually injured and need to see a healthcare professional.
As for me, my barre-induced DOMS went away about three days after my soreness peaked. I spent that time taking my dog for walks (as painful as it was), switching between heat and ice treatment, and waiting for sweet, sweet relief. Eventually—mercifully—that relief did come.
Recovery Done Right: 7 Ways to Help Relieve Sore Muscles
Products are manufactured and sold by a third party. As an associate, Openfit may earn commissions from qualifying purchases on this site.
Aching after a brutal workout? A common misconception is that sore muscles are a sign of an excellent workout, and that it’s proof your body is making changes in a positive direction.
But the truth is that sore muscles and workout quality don’t go hand in hand.
It usually just means you pushed yourself too hard or you’re doing new exercises. There are even steps you can take to avoid muscle soreness from the get-go.
Even though muscle soreness isn’t a necessity when you’re working to get results, it can creep up on you.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can make you feel the burn while your muscles recover and rebuild. But, if you take the right steps after your workout, you can go hard without paying the price.
Here are eight easy ways to prevent post-workout pain:
Before we dive into how to relieve muscle soreness, it helps to know why you get sore muscles in the first place. When you exercise intensely, that can cause micro-tears in your muscle tissue, which leads to delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.
This typically develops 12 to 24 hours after a tough workout, and can linger two or three days. The most common symptoms of DOMS include slight swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the affected joints, and increased tenderness and reduced strength in the affected muscles.
How to Relieve Sore Muscles
No matter how hard you try to avoid it, sometimes you’re going to overwork your body and find yourself in some pain after a workout. Exercise-induced muscle soreness usually fades within a few days, but if you’d like to speed things up, follow these tips to help you get on the fast track to feeling 100 percent.
Stretching is your first line of defense after a good workout. When you train, you contract your muscles, and the muscle fibers get shorter. Lengthening them after a workout promotes mobility, and can lead to a more thorough recovery.
While fitness experts can’t seem to agree on this strategy — one Australian study claims that stretching had no impact on sore muscles — it certainly won’t hurt, especially if your flexibility is limited.
If you’re new to stretching (or at least new to stretching routines), check out five of our favorite total-body mobility moves.
2. Foam roll
Using a foam roller to massage your sore muscles after a workout can significantly reduce DOMS, according to a recent study in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.
Give each major muscle group at least five rolls, starting with your calves and working your way up your body. Spend extra time on sore spots.
3. Massage your sore spots
Don’t limit foam rolling to your post-workout routine. Do it between workouts to ease muscle soreness and boost mobility.
Indeed, to see significant improvements in the latter, you have to foam roll even on the days you don’t train, report scientists at the University of Oregon.
4. Eat for rapid recovery.
Even if you’re eating at a calorie deficit, you want to make sure to get enough healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, all which play important roles in repairing and maintaining muscles and warding off sore muscles.
Beyond that, consider strategically timed protein supplementation. “Amino acids are your body’s building blocks,” explains Denis Faye, Openfit’s executive director of nutrition, “consuming them at the right times ensures they’ll be there when you need them.”
5. Get heated
Heat increases circulation, especially focused heat like that of a jacuzzi, making it a powerful recovery tool between workouts — emphasis on “between workouts.”
Immediately after a training session, such heat can exacerbate inflammation, and the jets can pound your already damaged muscles, resulting in more muscle soreness instead of less.
6. Keep moving
The last thing you want to do when everything hurts is to move, but that’s exactly what you need to do. A gentle yoga class or going on an easy hike are good options.
Fitness pros call this kind of activity “active recovery,” and if you find yourself winded or unable to hold a conversation while you do it, you’re overexerting yourself.
If you want to be technical about it, wear a heart rate monitor and stay below 140 beats per minute.
7. Ice it.
Immediately after a tough workout, icing your muscles can stave off inflammation. “Inflammation is one of nature’s defense mechanisms, but it works like a cast — it immobilizes you,” says Manny Varjak, fitness expert.
“When you keep inflammation down, that area is free to keep moving, and movement promotes healing.” Like stretching, its effectiveness is up for debate — some researchers have claimed that ice is only effective for injuries and not for run-of-the-mill soreness, but it’s a simple and safe option that many top-level athletes swear by.
“Unless you ice so long that you give yourself frostbite, there’s really no danger,” Varjak says. “It seems to really speed up healing without any adverse effects.”
Are You Too Sore to Work Out?
Sometimes you can power through a workout with sore muscles, but sometimes it feels downright impossible. If you’re unsure what to do, follow our advice on how to decide if you should lace up your workout shoes or take a rest day.
Should You Take a Painkiller to Relieve Muscle Soreness?
Popping some vitamin I (the street name for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin) can significantly reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness, but that relief might come at a price.
An ever-growing body of research has linked NSAIDs (including ibuprofen) to everything from cardiovascular issues and intestinal dysfunction to suppressed protein synthesis post-exercise.
Occasionally taking a couple capsules for muscle soreness is probably fine — but give some serious thought to using it regularly.
For more information on this topic, check out the following studies:
Resources: Donnelly AE, Maughan RJ, Whiting PH. Effects of ibuprofen on exercise-induced muscle soreness and indices of muscle damage.
Gorsline RT1, Kaeding CC. The use of NSAIDs and nutritional supplements in athletes with osteoarthritis: prevalence, benefits, and consequences. Clin Sports Med. 2005 Jan; 24(1): 71–82.
Rahnama N, Rahmani-Nia F, Ebrahim K. The isolated and combined effects of selected physical activity and ibuprofen on delayed-onset muscle soreness. Journal of Sports Science. 2005 Aug; 23(8): 843–50.
Wharam PC, Speedy DB, Noakes TD, Thompson JM, Reid SA, Holtzhausen LM. NSAID use increases the risk of developing hyponatremia during an Ironman triathlon. Medicine and Science Sports and Exercise. 2006 Apr; 38(4): 618–22.