Muscle soreness; we’ve all been there. Sitting turns in to more of a graceful fall, you avoid the stairs at all costs, and you’d rather buy a new pen than pick one up off the floor. In your quest to get fit and healthy, you’ve jumped into a new exercise routine with enthusiasm, and have woken up feeling sufficiently stiff and sore.
Mild soreness 24 – 28 hours after your training session, commonly referred to as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), is completely normal. It is caused by eccentric exercise, where the muscle is actively lengthening, which leads to small tears in the proteins that make up your muscles. Exercisers may experience a range of symptoms including dull, diffuse pain and tenderness, stiffness, swelling, and decreased strength of the exercised muscle. The severity of symptoms depends on the intensity and duration of training, but usually subside after a few days.
However, there are several ways to prevent and settle the symptoms of soreness. Use these tips for a speedy recovery and you’ll be back to the gym in a flash!
Preventing Muscle Soreness
- Ease into a new routine - Too much too soon can leave you feeling less than enthusiastic about your goal to get fit. Better to ease into a new program by working at an appropriate intensity for your fitness level. This will allow your muscles to adjust without causing extreme soreness.
- Warm-Up - A good warm-up is essential before any cardio or weights session. It primes your muscles for the work ahead by gradually increasing blood flow, and also helps to prevent injury. Perform 5 – 10 minutes of light activity such as walking, jogging, or dynamic stretching such as arm circles.
- Stay hydrated - Your blood transport nutrients and waste to and from your muscles. Dehydration can lead to a lower blood volume and effect this transport system leading to a decrease in performance and recovery. Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during, and after your workout to replace fluid lost through sweat. A good goal is to consume approximately 2 litres of water daily for optimal health.
- Cool down & stretch– An adequate cool down is just as important for recovery. Take 5 minutes to walk and let your heart rate slow. Follow this up with static stretching to lengthen the muscles you have worked.
- Eat well – Proper pre and post workout nutrition can significantly speed up recovery time. Before a training session have a small snack containing some carbohydrate and protein, such as a small bowl of cereal with milk, or half a turkey sandwich. Then after your training session, plan to have another snack within 30 minutes, such as a whey protein shake mixed with fruit. Follow this by eating a meal no more than 2 hours after training. During this 2 hour window, your muscles are primed to absorb nutrients which aid in faster recovery and repair. Check out my recipes for some inspiration!
- Supplement with BCAAs – Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which makes up our muscles. Branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs) include three main amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Research shows that supplementation has several benefits including reduced muscle soreness and fatigue associated with intense training. More information on the benefits of this supplement can be found here.
Easing Muscle Soreness
- Perform active rest – Although this may seem counterintuitive, performing low intensity exercise can help relieve muscle soreness. Activities such as walking, swimming, Pilates, or yoga increase circulation of blood. This is turn removes toxins and brings nutrients to muscles, aiding in their recovery.
- Reduce inflammation – Micro tears in muscles lead to inflammation and pain. To combat this effect try adding more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, such as blueberries, oily fish like wild salmon or sardines, and green vegetables like broccoli and kale.
- Relaxation– A gentle massage can help relieve muscle pain and tension associated with DOMS. Alternatively try soaking in a warm bath for 30 minutes. Anything to relax and ease discomfort can be helpful.
- Rest – Recovery takes time so make sure to give your body adequate rest. Ensure you are getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is essential for proper hormone balance and muscle recovery so don’t underestimate it’s importance. More tips on improving the quality and quantity of your sleep can be found here.
Hopefully these tips will help ease your aches, pains, and worries so you can get back to your active lifestyle. Remember good things take time, so schedule in adequate rest days and active recovery sessions to allow for healing. This way your body will be in tip top shape come training days, and you can perform at your best!
- What supplements do you use to complement your training?
- When was the last time you booked in for a massage or other relaxing treatment?