The day (or two!) after a tough workout, even the simple task of putting on a pair of shoes can feel impossible. Though muscle soreness cannot be avoided, there are many effective ways that can help diminish it and get you back on your feet faster. Timing is key, as you first want to reduce inflammation, then speed up circulation. Follow this plan.
1. Stretching and foam rolling. Focusing on your larger muscle groups, stretch and foam roll after your cool-down to help break down the adhesions, or little tears, in your muscles and increase blood flow.
2. Ice baths. Many professional and amateur athletes submerge the lower-half of their bodies or their entire bodies in ice-cold baths after hard runs or workouts. Whenever you exercise and your muscles swell, ice can help expedite the recovery process by chasing the blood away to diminish the inflammation. A cold bath has the same effect as using an ice pack to reduce the swelling of an injury, but in the tub you get that benefit for the whole body. I wouldn't suggest that you jump right into an ice bath if you've never tried this before, as it could be a shock to your system. If you are feeling fairly thick-skinned, though, try dipping into a cool bath or swim for 10 to 15 minutes after your workout, and you can work your way down on the thermometer as you acclimate to the temperature.
3. Contrast showers. If you are not ready to jump into a cold bath quite yet but still want to benefit from cold water, play with the water temp in your shower. Turn it to lukewarm for one to two minutes, then switch to a cold setting. At first the initial shock may have you turning back on the warm water, but bear down and remain under the water for about two minutes. Switch back and forth between the temperatures for five to six minutes, or up to 10 minutes if you have the time. This will help flush out lactic acid so you recover more quickly.
Days That Follow Your Workout
1. Mustard baths. Mustard is said to dilate the blood vessels to increase the amount of blood flow to the skin's surface, thereby relieving achyness. It also has the ability to diminish pain signals to the brain when used topically. I don't recommend rubbing it directly on your skin, however. Instead try adding up to 1/4 cup of yellow mustard to a cup of epsom salt, and then soak with that in a bath. [Tweet this tip!]
2. Lemon towel. Lemons are a natural anti-inflammatory. Try this: Mix 2 to 3 tablespoons honey and the juice of three or four lemons in a bowl, and microwave for 30 seconds. Dip a towel in it and apply to sore areas.
1. Ginger supplements. Researchers at Georgia College and State University discovered that ginger may reduce muscle soreness. The best part? Less discomfort improves range of motion, which helps you pack on more muscle. A change was noticed within 11 days using 2 grams of ground ginger each day.
2. Kinesio taping. This popular tape is not just for use during your workout. I wore it when I pulled a hamstring and recovered faster. Think about the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) theory: This tape provides the "C," compression, which decreases swelling and supports the muscle.
1. Deep-tissue massage. If you have the ability to get a deep-tissue massage once a month, by all means do. This is a great remedy for increasing blood circulation as well. I recommend spending 10 minutes in a sauna and doing some light stretching before your massage to loosen your muscles and help increase blood flow so you're prepared to reap all the benefits from your session.