10 Simple Ways to Relieve Sore Muscles After a Workout

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A girl sitting on a foam roller
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Friday March 1, 2024

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Exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but the aftermath of an intense workout can leave you with sore muscles. While waking up to sore muscles following an intense workout can be satisfying, it may prevent you from working out to your full potential. While this discomfort is a natural part of the muscle-building process, there are several effective ways to alleviate soreness and promote faster recovery.

Why Do Your Muscles Get Sore After a Workout?

Muscle soreness, commonly referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is a natural and often inevitable consequence of working out. When you push your body during a workout, especially if it involves new or intense exercises, microscopic damage occurs to muscle fibers. This damage triggers an inflammatory response as the body works to rebuild the stressed muscles. The inflammation, coupled with the accumulation of metabolic waste products like lactic acid, contributes to post-workout stiffness.

Additionally, the muscle adaptation and growth process involves the recruitment of muscle fibers that aren’t accustomed to strenuous activity. This microtrauma and subsequent repair are essential components of muscle strengthening and growth, making soreness a sign that your muscles are adapting to new challenges.

While the discomfort can be bothersome, understanding that it’s a natural part of the muscle-building process can help you appreciate the positive changes occurring in your body as a result of your hard work. 

Remedies for Sore Muscles After a Workout

To help alleviate the discomfort and stiffness that comes with tough training sessions, consider incorporating the following remedies into your exercise routine. These strategies aim to soothe soreness, reduce inflammation and ensure you’re back on your feet for your next workout.

  1. Warm Up and Cool Down

Never underestimate the importance of a proper warm-up and cool-down in your workout routine. A dynamic warm-up, consisting of light cardio and dynamic stretches, prepares your body for the upcoming activity by increasing your heart rate and blood flow to your muscles.

On the other hand, a cool-down with static stretching helps bring your heart rate back to baseline and prevents lactic acid build-up, reducing muscle soreness.

  1. Use a Foam Roller or Massage Gun

Foam rolling is a self-massage technique that involves using a foam roller to target sore or tight muscles. This practice helps release knots and trigger points, promoting better blood circulation and reducing muscle tension. Spend 60 seconds rolling over each muscle group, paying extra attention to particularly stiff areas.

  1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Proper hydration is one of the simplest yet most overlooked aspects of muscle recovery. Drinking an adequate amount of water helps flush out toxins from your muscles and prevents dehydration, which can exacerbate muscle soreness. Make sure you drink ample water before, during and after your sessions. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends at least 2.7 liters a day for women and 3.7 for men.

  1. Get Regular Sports Massages (If You Can)

Integrating regular sports massages into your wellness routine can be a game-changer for muscle recovery. A skilled massage therapist can target specific muscle groups, releasing tension, reducing inflammation and enhancing flexibility. Sports massages not only provide physical benefits but also contribute to mental relaxation, reducing stress and promoting an overall sense of well-being.

  1. Keep Your Body Moving

Consistency is key when it comes to maintaining a healthy and resilient body. Keep your body moving instead of succumbing to the temptation of prolonged periods of inactivity. On mornings you wake up too stiff for your usual workout, settle for a gentle walk, jog, swim, cycle or even stretch instead. Engaging in low-impact activities promotes blood circulation and prevents stiffness. Light movement encourages the flow of nutrients to your muscles and joints, aiding recovery and reducing the likelihood of experiencing extensive soreness after a training session. 

  1. Focus on Nutrition

Fueling your body with the right nutrients is vital for muscle recovery. Consume a balanced diet rich in protein, which is vital for repairing and building muscle tissue. Additionally, include foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids, to help reduce muscle inflammation. Incorporate these nutrient-dense foods into your diet:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel
  • Beetroot, tart cherry, watermelon or pomegranate juice
  • Protein shakes
  • Eggs
  • Starchy vegetables like pumpkin, butternut, potatoes and sweet potatoes
  1. Relax in a Salt Bath

Relaxing in a salt bath, particularly with Epsom salts, is a therapeutic way to soothe sore muscles. Epsom salts contain magnesium, a mineral known for its muscle-relaxing properties. As you soak, your skin absorbs the salts, promoting muscle relaxation, reducing inflammation and easing tension. 

Combine this with a warm bath to enhance blood circulation, and you have a rejuvenating experience that provides a treatment for your muscles but is also a good way to relax mentally and clear your mind. 

  1. Use Compression Garments

Wearing compression garments, such as compression sleeves or socks, can reduce muscle swelling and improve circulation. These garments apply pressure to the muscles, speeding up recovery and alleviating soreness.

  1. Try Hydrotherapy

Taking a dip in a hot tub or a cold plunge pool can be an effective way to promote muscle recovery. The water reduces the impact on your muscles, and the temperature variations can help improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation.

  1. Rest and Sleep

Allowing your muscles to rest is crucial for recovery. Adequate sleep is when your body repairs and builds muscle tissue, so aim for 7–9 hours of quality sleep each night. Avoid overtraining and listen to your body — if you’re feeling excessively sore, consider adding rest days to your workout routine.

How Long Do Sore Muscles Last For?

The duration of this soreness can vary from person to person and depends on factors like the intensity of your workout, individual fitness level and the type of exercise you performed. Typically, muscle soreness sets in 48 to 72 hours after exercising and peaks around the 48-hour mark. 

Fortunately, these effects are temporary and tend to subside within a few days. Symptoms should improve as the muscles repair and adapt. Incorporating effective remedies into your regimen can ease these symptoms and allow you to get back to training as soon as possible. If soreness persists for an extended period or is unusually severe, you may have picked up an injury and it’s advisable to consult a health care professional.

Level Up Your Training

Relieving sore muscles after a workout typically involves a combination of techniques, like optimizing hydration and nutrition, incorporating stretching, resting and active recovery. Incorporating these strategies into your pre- and post-workout routine can speed up your recovery process and ensure you’re ready for your next workout with minimal discomfort.

Updated on March 1, 2024

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