The biggest misconception is that muscle soreness is the sign of a good workout. This couldn’t be furthest from the truth because soreness has nothing to do with the type of workout we do but more about how in shape our bodies are. Once your muscles build immunity to the types of workouts you are doing, the soreness you feel will go away. When this happens it is the first sign to change your workout.
Reading articles on the web will suggest a lot of good things to help fight muscle soreness. They talk about getting the proper amount of rest, working protein into your pre and post workout shakes, as well as other nutrition related cures. These articles are correct if you want to fight soreness over the course of a week or so, but if you are looking for quick fixes on the day of working out or the day after, there are only a few things you can do.
1. Adding in a Cool Down to the End of Your Workout
After we workout, most people are tired and their muscles are fatigued. They don’t want to think about doing anymore work that will make them feel any worse. Sometimes we don’t have the time to get in a cool down because we did everything we could to get our workout finished in time.
Adding in a cool down to the end of your workout will help fight muscle soreness. It helps to bring down the heart rate in a normal and safe fashion instead of just leaving the gym with your heart rate elevated. A cool down will help break up lactic acid in the muscles that create soreness and cramps during the night when our bodies are dehydrated. The best thing a cool down will do for our bodies is help to keep the blood circulating to the muscles that have been fatigued throughout the workout.
This helps to empty out waste build up in the joints and bring more oxygen to the area that needs it most. The cool down should consist of light movements for a 5-10 minute period. Slow jogging, light stationary bike work or light weight movements for high reps count as a cool down.
2. Active Cool Downs Using Self Myofascial Release
If there is not time to cool down, breaking down the knots left in our muscles after working out or stressful activities is the next best plan. The release of proteins causes the development of knots within the muscle. Knots that are left untreated make muscles inflexible and tight and decrease a muscle’s ability to function and contract properly. Knots can also cause chronic muscle tension, joint pain and poor posture. Self myofascial release incorporates the use of a foam roll or hard rubber ball and body pressure to massage muscles. It helps to decrease micro-adhesions that lead to the formation of muscle knots. These micro-adhesions stimulate the release of healing proteins, which lead to an increase in muscle density and metabolism. It also serves as a deep tissue massage for the muscle and will help release the lactic acid and wastes that build up after working out. The best part is that this type of soreness release can be done at home, using the floor or wall to help hit targeted areas.
3. Take a Contrast Shower After Training
Something that has been practiced since ancient times is hydrotherapy, now referred to as contrast showers. In 1886, Sebastian Kneipp’s book, My Water Cure, was the first approach to taking hydrotherapy into the home. The idea is to stand under warm water for one minute then switch it over to cold water for one minute and repeat for a total of 10 minutes. This process helps to stimulate recovery in the body and has been used for elite athletes since the ancient Greeks. They used bath houses with separate temperature baths to move in and out of. This is a quick and effective approach for reducing soreness after you work out because it takes only 10 minutes out of the day and will take place in your own shower, which you would hopefully be taking after your workout anyway.
Muscle soreness is something that everyone who works out will deal with throughout their life. It comes and goes as we continue to get more fit, but if you know how to take the necessary steps it can be something that doesn’t take over your life. Proper nutrition and active stretching will reduce soreness over time but if you are looking for something to help with the soreness on any given day, try the activities mentioned above and feel the soreness disappear.