I love a little bit of post-workout soreness. I wear it like a badge of honor, since I know it means I am becoming stronger. However, there's a difference between a healthy ache and pain that makes it agonizing to brush your hair, take off your bra, laugh, or get into your car. You can prevent this post-workout pain by never getting out of shape (that's my trainer Hannah's philosophy), or you can try the following suggestions.
- Before You Go to the Gym, Sip Some Joe - A recent study shows that ingesting a bit of caffeine before you hit the gym reduces muscular pain post-workout.
- Don't Skip the Warmup - Even if you're fit and have been exercising your whole life, you still need to warm up before working out. Before running, swimming, biking, or another type of cardio, do a light version of your workout for five minutes. Also warm up before strength training with five minutes of light cardio. Warmed up muscles are less apt to tear.
- Follow the 10 Percent Rule - Adhering to the 10 percent rule and gradually increasing the time and intensity of your running, swimming, or biking workout helps keep DOMS pain down. The rule goes: never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent as compared to the previous week. Slowly building up endurance and muscular strength allows your body time to adapt and this helps prevent injury.
- Don't Overdo It in the Weight Room -The soreness comes from microscopic tears in your muscles, so don't overdo it at the gym when strength training. Increase the intensity of your workout gradually. This goes for the amount of weight you're lifting, the number of repetitions, and the types of exercises you're doing.
- Stop When You Feel Pain - I'm sure you can relate to feeling a little uncomfortable when you're exercising hard - burning muscles, heavy breathing, and even itchy legs are normal. Sharp pain, on the other hand, is not; it's a sign that you're overdoing it. If you push yourself to work through the pain, you could end up with a very serious injury. So listen to your body. Take a few minutes to rest during your workout if you're hurting, and continue once the pain subsides. Or stop altogether if the pain doesn't go away, and give your body a break from working that part of your body until you feel better.
- End Your Workout With Stretching - Stretching won't necessarily prevent sore muscles post-workout, but it can prevent your muscles and joints from feeling stiff and tight. Stretch after you cool down, not before you begin your workout. Need some ideas? Here are some stretches.
- Take an Ice Bath After Your Workout - Many elite athletes swear by a post-workout ice bath to recover faster and to reduce soreness and muscle pain. The cold temps are thought to constrict blood vessels and flush waste products out of the damaged tissues, reducing swelling. When you come out of the bath, and your body begins to warm up, you have improved circulation, which also helps with the healing process. I'll be honest, I'd rather deal with sore muscles for a few days than a freezing cold bath for 20 minutes. Sometimes I do take a cold shower post-workout but wouldn't swear to you that it helps.
- Recover With Cherry Juice - Studies show that drinking cherry juice before and after exercising can ease muscle soreness. Researchers believe it has to do with the flavonoids and anthocyanins that have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers. Anthocyanins are also found in blueberries and other purplish-red fruits and vegetables. This form of post-workout recuperation is still being studied. There is no harm in sipping on cherry juice, but it might not ease your pain.
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