Feeling some soreness after a particularly intense workout is inevitable. But there are ways you can make your life a bit easier. To help you, we have listed some of the most efficient ways you can alleviate that post-workout soreness.
One of the best ways of dealing with muscle soreness is, you guessed it, stretching. The oldest trick in the book, stretches are not as straightforward as they seem to be. There are many different kinds of stretches, and you should include them in your workout routine if you want to ensure proper muscle recovery. Every workout should start with warm-ups in the form of dynamic loaded and unloaded stretches. Dynamic, put simply, means that you go from a neutral position to an extended one in jerky, relatively quick motions, pushing your limits with each new extension. This prepares your muscles for any unexpected extension during your workout and makes them both elastic and stable. Make sure that you warm up your entire body, not just the muscle group you are working on in your session. After your workout, wait for your muscles to cool down and for the pump to go away. Then engage in some light static stretching, where you remain in an extended position for a few seconds, without any sudden movements or jerks. Stretch all the muscles that feel sore. You can stretch even in-between training sessions.
Get Enough Sleep
One important thing for proper muscle growth and recovery is plenty of sleep. Non–rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, for example, increases protein synthesis (the creation of new proteins), which is needed to repair damaged muscles. Besides the chemical effect, getting in at least seven hours of sleep is also important for the mind. Chronic fatigue has a detrimental effect on your hormones, and can lead to depression and anxiety, which are real motivation-killers. In addition, fatigue makes you less alert when training, thus making you more prone to accidental injury due to a lack of concentration during your workout.
Take a Hot Shower
Hot showers are great for stimulating blood flow after a workout. It may sound dreadful to wash yourself with hot water after a heavy workout, especially in summer, but the benefits outweigh the slight discomfort. Your blood vessels expand when heated, so it makes it easier for blood rich in oxygen and nutrients to reach your muscles, which encourages the microscopic tears in your muscle fibers to heal and make new fibers. Heat also helps get rid of lactic acid build up, the main culprit to post-workout soreness. Lastly, hot showers let your body cool off gradually, and relieve stress by promoting dopamine production. Similar effects can be achieved in a sauna or steam bath.
Another great tool for those particularly sore or tweaked muscles is a muscle massager. These handheld machines deliver rapid vibrations that, when placed on your muscles, can help promote blood flow to that area. Many massage guns come with attachments of various shapes and sizes to better target different muscle groups, even those difficult to reach, like glutes or hip flexors. With one tool you combine two great recovery techniques, massage and vibrational therapy. Just make sure that you do not press too hard or massage the muscle for too long in order not to irritate it.
Foam rolling is halfway between stretching and a massage. After a workout, you simply place a foam roller or lacrosse ball under the muscles that you worked and lie on top of it with all your weight pressing down. And then you roll away, lengthwise. Foam rollers release tension in your muscle and connective tissues and help move fluids that build up in your muscles during exercise. Foam rolling also increases blood circulation, so it stimulates muscle tissue regeneration.
Even though it might be the last thing on your mind after an intense workout, light cardio is one of the best ways to get rid of muscle soreness, especially if it is a bad one. You want to get blood moving to the sore muscles to deliver oxygen and nutrients needed for repair — without causing more damage to the muscle tissues, so keep the cardio light. You can do some cardio, like walking, or swimming immediately after your workout, as a sort of cool down, but you should also use those rest days to get moving. Lying still can make your soreness worse, so get off the couch and go for a light jog or a walk. You will thank us later.
Go for a massage
Sometimes the workouts get so intense that nothing you do can help you relieve the tension. This is when professionals come to the rescue. There are dozens of different massaging techniques: Gua Sha, or muscle scraping – it has been used for thousands of years to alleviate pain and release knots and improve blood flow; sports massages, deep tissue massages, shiatsu, vacuum therapy, etc. All of these are beneficial in their own way.
There are no immediate cures to muscle soreness after an intense workout, but there are ways to alleviate some of the discomfort. Most of them have to do with light movement, increasing blood circulation and encouraging tissue repair. But if nothing works, we suggest seeing a doctor or physical therapist.