Sore muscles are a pain. The worst thing about this necessary evil is probably that too many people, especially after a long layoff from exercise, feel the ill effects of sore muscles, and it prevents them from working out in the immediate future. Having sore muscles often falls into the “great excuse” category for skipping the next workout.
The best way to handle sore muscles is to avoid them in the first place. This is easier said than done, because nobody intentionally makes their muscles sore or knows exactly what causes them. Some cause for sore muscles are known, however. If you haven’t worked out in a while, or it’s been a few months since you laced up the trusty basketball sneakers, pushing the weight in a workout or jumping into a pickup basketball game is the fastest way to make your muscles sore. As mentioned before, sore muscles are a necessary evil. When you workout you are causing small tears in the muscle fibers of the muscles. Muscles have to be broken down in order to be built back up again. This breakdown of muscle fibers occurs during any workout. The harder you work, the more your muscles will be fatigued and broken down. This is why it’s important to start with light weight, after some time off, and slowly progress to heavier weights. The same is true of a pickup basketball, softball, or golf game. The more your muscles are conditioned for the upcoming activity, the better they will respond to being broken down. The less ready your muscles are for the stress they are about to go through, the more likely the onset of muscle soreness. Often you may workout on a Monday, feel fine on a Tuesday, and once Wednesday rolls around, you’re thinking, “Wow. I’m sore!” This phenomenon is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. It doesn’t occur in every individual, and studies are not conclusive as to why this happens, but it affect a lot of people.
Muscle soreness will happen, but there are ways to deal with the pain:
Make yourself a priority. Rest. You want to get in shape, and you want a better body. Perhaps you just want to be healthy. Whatever your reason for exercise, don’t let the effects of muscle soreness slow you down. At the same time, this soreness is a way of your body telling you something. You need rest. Sleep and relaxation allow muscles to regroup and rebuild. Protein and a proper diet consisting of the right foods also aid in the dissipation of soreness.
Drink plenty of water. Most of America is dehydrated. Studies show that up to 75% of America doesn’t drink enough water, and 70% of pre-school age children never drink plain water. Your muscles need water, especially when they are sore.
Walk to decrease lactic acid. Muscle soreness is a result of those tiny muscle fiber tears, and it’s also a result of a buildup of lactic acid. Go for a walk or a jog to decrease that buildup of lactic acid.
Alternate ice and heat. Ice works wonders for sore muscles. It’s not fun, but the results are great. Ice after a workout to prevent soreness. Once the onset of soreness occurs, use ice and alternate with heat a few hours later. Ice can decrease any swelling. Heat will increase bloodflow and relax the muscles.
Stretch. Your muscles need to be stretched back to their normal length. Warming up the muscles properly and then stretching before physical activity is a superb way to prevent most muscle soreness.
Get a massage. Everybody loves this one. Treat yourself, but be careful. Tell your massage therapist not to dig too deep. Your sore muscles are already slightly damaged and worn down. Avoid further damaging of the tender area by not pressing too hard.
Try these tips to help ease the suffering of sore muscles. As always, prevention is the key, but the soreness can be handled once it has begun. Don’t let soreness get in the way of your next workout!