We all felt sore after a workout. It occurs after we start working out again, when we train more intensively than usual or change our exercise routine. That is why it hits both the newbies and the high-level athletes. The common belief that to feel sore means you are fit is wrong. It just signifies that you pushed yourself harder or targeted different muscles when doing a new exercise. It isn’t a sign that your body is making significant positive metamorphoses however it does indicate that you solicited new muscle tissues. How to relieve sore muscles after a workout? There are ways to prevent feeling “bruised” and avoid taking pain killers too often.
What are DOMS ? (delayed onset muscle soreness)
The burn felt after training is called “delayed onset muscle soreness”; “delayed” referring to post-exercising. After an intense muscular activity, you can get micro-tears in your muscle tissues. It is an inflammatory reaction in response to the tears of the muscles’cells. There are 2 types of felt pain: acute muscle soreness (immediate) and delayed muscle soreness (post).
Acute muscle soreness is caused by a build-up of lactic acid that is eliminated from the muscle tissues within the 2hrs after the physical effort. It heals quickly.
DOMS are felt 12 to 48hrs after the workout. They can last up to 5 days and are most felt within the 24-48hr period. Some symptoms of post-training pain are stiffness, slight swelling and reduced range of motion. I remember the last time I was really sore, I could hardly walk and it hurt when I tried to sit down. I had done a set of 10 different squats.
How to relieve sore muscles?
Although more research is needed concerning the relief of muscle soreness, here are a few tips that work out for me.
1. I Stretch. When you workout, the muscles contract and the tissues shorten causing stiffness. Lengthening them can only do some good by furthering mobility and accelerating the healing process.
2. I keep on moving by taking a walk, doing dynamic stretches such as walking lunges and arm circles. Cooling down helps to get your heart beat to a normal rate and also helps remove any lactic acid build-up.
3. I massage the sore spots. Wouldn’t it be great to get a full professional body massage after each workout? Professional athletes do!! Since I can’t afford it, I self-massage targeting the sore spots using massaging oils and pain relieving creams.
4. I eat and drink anti-inflammatory foods such pomegranate juice, ginger infusion, pineapple, watermelon which are antioxidant-rich foods.
5. I eat healthy proteins, carbohydrates and fats such as eggs, salmon, almonds or protein milk for a rapid recovery, a couple hours after my training and before bedtime. This timed supplementation ensures that my body assess the amino-acids that are very beneficial in repairing, maintaining muscle mass and relieve the burn. In fact, I found out that watermelon is rich of those amino-acids.
6. I take a hot bath. I love baths. Heating therapy is relaxing and soothes my pain. I add essential oils to my bath such as lavender. It relaxes, reduces stress and promotes sleep. Eucalyptus essential oil reduces inflammation, pain and has a chilling effect on the aching muscles.
7. I try to take a cold shower after my bath. I say I try because I don’t do it all the time but I SHOULD! Cold therapy relieves muscle pain by reducing swelling.
How to prevent getting sore?
1. I warm up about 5 minutes beforehand to slowly raise my heartbeat, blood circulation and body temperature. This prepares my body to the greater effort that is to come by providing the needed oxygen to the muscles. For instance, I do some jumping jacks, squats and a few lunges.
2. I drink coffee. Caffeine improves exercise performance. It may cut post-workout pain down to 50% ! It raises energy levels and frees fatty acid mobilization. I make sure I add it to my meal or snack.
3. I drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. When exercising, we lose fluids and it impacts our physical and mental performance. Keeping our performance up ensures you will get a better workout experience and protects you from getting injured. 70 to 75% of our muscle mass is made of water.
4. I use a foam roll which is a form of self-massage, by giving 5 rolls to each muscle group. I start with my calves and work my way up. It stimulates the blood flow speeding up the muscle fibers’ recovery.
Keep on exercising or rest?
I do both. My routine consists of working on one muscle group at a time (upper body on Mondays, lower body on Tuesdays and core on Wednesdays etc…). Therefore, I end up working on my upper body every 2 days. Muscles need to rest in order for the micro-tears to heal. However, to keep on training is what gets your muscles used to the exercises unless you increase your training intensity. That is why in order to reduce the risk of injury and lessen soreness, it is important to gradually increase in intensity.
I also do all kinds of different exercises. Switching types of training routine. For instance: on one lower body day is “fitness type” exercises with squats, lunges, etc…, and the next lower body day, it’s a “ballet barre type” routine with pliés, extensions etc… In this way I sollicitate all my muscles and I don’t get bored!!
Being sore doesn’t mean you are fit
Remember as time goes on, DOMS are less frequent because your body adapts to your training. The key is to keep on exercising and be consistent at it. Varying the type of moves ensures you are engaging all muscle groups. Even when you feel the burn, what you need to do is to move, switching muscle groups every 2 days so that the aching muscles can rest and heal. Being sore is a natural adaptive process and response to a new movement or boost in intensity. If you adopt all the tips mentioned above, you will relieve the burn or even prevent post-training pain. Getting fit takes time and being persistent is the key to staying healthy.