Say goodbye to post-workout muscle pains with these M.D.-approved tips

By Marnie Soman Schwartz
Updated: November 12, 2015

If you've made and kept a resolution to start a brand-new workout regimen or to hit the gym harder this year, bravo! We bet you're feeling pretty healthy-but maybe, also, feeling a little pain. "There's a distinction between healthy pain, which is the ache you get from working hard, and unhealthy pain, which actively changes how you move," says sports medicine doctor, triathlete, and fitness instructor Jordan D. Metzl, M.D., If you're experiencing the unhealthy type, he suggests rethinking your goals to be more realistic. And if it's that hurts-so-good muscle ache from a tough workout (technically called delayed-onset muscle soreness), follow his tips to feel better quick. (And follow this Speedy Workout Recovery Schedule.)

Balance Your Training

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Some aches and injuries result from unbalanced muscles, says Metzl, so make sure your workout is full-body and even. For example, if you want awesome abs, make sure to work your back, too, to keep your muscle groups in balance.

Roll it Out

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Metzl is a huge foam-rolling fan (and so are we-check out 8 Moves to Foam Roll Your Entire Body). Foam rolling will speed up the recovery process and boost your flexibility, allowing you to do more. He suggests using a hollow roller for 10 to 15 minutes a day.

Warm Up and Cool Down Right

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Start your workout with a dynamic warm-up and save static stretching for after your cool down. It'll help prevent muscle contractions and may help with soreness, says Metzl.

Stay Hydrated

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Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workout will help keep your muscles feeling their best. Make sure to read these 4 Tips to Dodge Dehydration this Winter.

Keep Moving

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When you're feeling really sore, it's super tempting to sit on the couch. But Dr. Metzl says that instead, you should do something light. "I'm a 7-days-a-week" kind of guy," he says. "Do something you like, whether that's easy jogging, swimming, a leisurely bike ride, or yoga." A little movement will make you feel better, faster.

Take Some Meds

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If you're really feeling sore, it's fine to take some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen, says Dr. Metzl, or a topical pain relief cream. But if you find yourself needing a lot of them, or needing them more than occasionally, that's a sign you may be pushing yourself too hard, he says.

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