When people set out to improve their lives, the first step they make toward their goal is by getting in great shape. We can’t blame them: Working out improves your heart health, burns fat, builds muscle, and strengthens your lung capacity.
However, some aspects of changing one’s fitness levels aren’t fun to talk about or experience. Delayed onset muscle soreness, also known as DOMs, is a common issue that gym enthusiasts and athletes must deal with from time to time. When a newfound gym goer targets a rarely-used group of muscles during a workout, they will pay for it later that week in the form of aches, pains, and potential cramping.
While this may sound like a doom-and-gloom scenario, there is a silver lining that most people are familiar with. When you being to use these tools and techniques listed below, you can reduce muscle soreness and get back into the gym quicker than you would expect:
- Stretch and gently massage the muscles you exercised
- Sleep and rest thoroughly before and after a workout
- Use ice baths to reduce inflammation and swelling
- Use heating pads and warm showers to improve blood flow
- Incorporate over-the-counter pain medications such as Advil and aspirin
- Menthol-infused products can reduce pain and inflammation quickly
While this may be a great list of ideas to perform after a workout is complete, it doesn’t address the pre-workout warmup. Getting your muscles loose and ready for movement is the key to a productive session. From athletes preparing for a game or a volleyball player heading out onto the court, they all warm up their muscles before activity.
In conjunction with a proactive warmup routine, adequate hydration is critical for athletic performance. Before going out on a jog or hitting the weights, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Also, you can incorporate intra-workout drinks that contain electrolytes and simple sugars to fuel your activities.
While going through the motions, emphasize your form and control during specialized techniques. While this may seem boring or dull, it reduces the risk of injury and creates optimal muscle stimulation.
Once you’ve completed your workout, gently wind down and rehydrate your body. Once you leave the gym or court, always make sure to give your body a chance to recover and rest before engaging in another workout.
When you start your fitness journey, give yourself 48-hours to recover and heal your muscles. The 48-hours you spend resting, eating nutritious foods, and sleeping well will give your body a chance to recover and repair internal damage that occurred during your workout. Whether we’re aware of it or not, our muscles tear and become inflamed during our exercise routine, forcing the system to grow.
Muscle soreness is normal, and individuals that have spent their entire lives in the gym still experience discomfort from time to time. However, if your muscle soreness lasts more than a few weeks with no signs of letting up, it may be time to visit your doctor for a checkup.