When we exercise, whether running, weight training, yoga or something else, using our muscles to exertion tears them down. We use our muscles to run long distances, lift heavy weights and even to stretch ourselves to new lengths; all of this creates tiny micro-tears in the muscle fibers and it causes pockets of lactic acid to form. This is the cause of muscle soreness or pain after a workout.
When these micro-tears occur in our muscle tissue, it takes protein synthesis, adequate blood flow and rest to recover. With proper recovery techniques, the muscle comes back bigger and stronger than it was before. We then workout again, create more micro-tears, heal and recover, and this is how we build up our muscles. The key to a healthy, pain-free body is twofold: workout, and properly recover after a workout.
Here are some highly effective ways to get rid of muscle soreness after a strenuous workout:
1. Ice Baths
It might sound insane, but believe it: ice baths after a long run or a hard day of lifting with your legs are heaven-sent. Your tolerance of the cold is directly related to how much pain you are in! Fill the bathtub about 1/3 full and pour in two large bags of ice. Now sit in it. You can even leave your clothes on. Just sit there for 10 minutes; it may feel freezing, but you are guaranteed to feel much better when you get out!
You do not need to be an expert Yogi to know how to stretch. You really should stretch lightly before a workout, and stretch more intensely afterward. The next day when you are still sore, stretch again gently. You might find that stretching is easier after sitting in a hot bath for about 20 minutes.
3. Roll it Out
Ah, the foam roller. The piece of equipment we all love to hate. As much agony as it is to roll out on the foam roller, it is worth it! You are rolling out the lactic acid that has built up in your muscles and that is keeping you sore. So grit your teeth and roll out!
4. Sit Legs Up
Lay on your back with your legs up against a wall and your rear up next to the baseboard. This exercise is best done right after a hard run or workout but can be done any time to help drain the lactic acid from your aching muscles. Give your legs a shake – massage and knead the muscles while you are upside-down. This will help the acid move out of your muscles where it is causing pain and be reabsorbed harmlessly into your body.
Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medication that is also a pain reliever. It is also available in prescription strength. It is wonderful for sore muscles and any type of muscle cramp. Of course, if you are taking any other medications it is advised that you ask your doctor if Ibuprofen is safe for you to take.
6. Banana Rama
Eating a banana either before or after a workout is a great habit to get into. Your muscles will love the extra potassium and with sufficient potassium levels, you will be less likely to suffer from muscle cramps.
7. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is possibly one of the most important aspects of being physically fit. Our bodies cannot function without enough water; when you sweat on top of being dehydrated, you run the risk of over-taxing your heart, kidneys, brain and the muscles you are trying so hard to take care of. Chugging water during exercise is not hydrating. To stay sufficiently hydrated, drink 8-10 glasses or bottles of water each and every day, even if you’re not working out that day. During exercise you should be concentrating on replenishing carbs and minerals lost during your workout with sports drinks or energy supplements like Gu packets. The more hydrated you are and the better balanced you keep your electrolytes, the less sore you will be from your workouts.
8. Sports Massage
Well, this isn’t exactly a “day at the spa” massage, but it is highly effective in working the acids out of our muscles after a strenuous workout. Try to time a sports massage directly after working out or running, while your muscles are still warm. Sports massages target the muscle groups you just worked and, while it may not be relaxing exactly, it will take a lot of the pain out of your recovery.
When we workout, even if we do it regularly, we are going to be sore soon afterwards. It just comes with the territory. With these eight tips on how to get rid of pain after exercise, you can at least reduce the amount of pain you go through post-workout, which will speed up your recovery time considerably. With faster recovery times, you can get to your next workout sooner!
Zeigler, Zack. 2014. “6 Things You Should Do After Every Workout” on Muscle & Fitness. http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/workout-tips/6-things-you-should-do-after-every-workout. Internet. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
Sugar, Jenny. 2014. “Four Things You Can’t Skip After a Workout” on Pop Sugar. http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Four-Things-Do-After-You-Finish-Your-Workout-888771. Internet. Retrieved 30 November 2014.