When you’re new to working out, few experiences are more off-putting than a bout of post-workout muscle soreness. The immediate post-workout period is misleading; you don’t experience soreness straight away, which leads you to believe you’re getting an easy ride. Then perhaps the next day, or even the one after that, it kicks in with a vengeance.
Drumming up the motivation to return to the gym is difficult when your aching muscles are making it difficult to even get out of your chair. Fortunately, there are ways to tackle soreness so you’re more motivated for your next session.
Stretch like your life depends on it
Did you stretch after your workout? And if you did, did you stretch in the right way? While the generic stretches you learned during PE at school were okay, they’re not a match for targeted stretching that’ll address specific muscle groups or sports activities. Do your research and find out which stretches will best benefit your workout.
Factor in rest periods and cool down days
Even the boffins don’t know for sure what causes the muscle soreness, the most popular theory is that your muscles experience small tears, which then repair over the next few days. While you can’t avoid such injuries if you want to progress, you can factor in rest periods and cool down days to ease the pain. Taking days off gives your body time to heal and it’s during rest periods (especially sleep) that you produce more growth hormone. Alternatively, you can try a cool down day where you just walk or swim.
Amount of muscle soreness can vary a lot from feeling ‘ a bit stiff’ right up to “JESUSCHRISTDON’TTOUCHME!” If you fall closer to the paying for a swift death end of the scale, then applying a cold compress to aching muscles encourages vasoconstriction, which means less fluid rushes to the area, reducing the amount of inflammation you experience. Once you’ve done this, the Mayo Clinic suggests applying heat to the area, as this soothes the pain and encourages better blood flow. With better blood flow comes a reduction in lactic acid, which reduces soreness in itself.
Have a rub-down
In the early days, your body has a harder time adjusting to workouts, but eventually becomes inoculated against most of the pain as you build endurance. Sports massages encourage blood flow to the area where you’re experiencing pain, which in turn brings nutrients and flushes out lactic acid. It also alleviates muscle tension, which in turn ensures you’re enthusiastic about returning to your workout plan.
Work from the inside out
Battling inflammation isn’t just an external job; if you pay attention to what enters your mouth the process is smoother. Foods that are rich in omega-3s, such as salmon and flax seed, go a long way towards reducing inflammation. If you want to speed this process up, try adding flaxseeds to your usual smoothies or shakes, or you can opt for an amino acid supplement that’s high in omega-3s instead.
Most of all, remember that gains do come with some pain, but this pain isn’t too excruciating under normal circumstances. Just remember the worst of it will be after your first couple of workouts. If you can power through it in the first week or so, you’ll experience a lot less post-workout soreness going forwards.