It Hurts So Good: How to Care for Your Muscles Before & After a Tough Workout
Sometimes the most beneficial thing you can do for your muscles isn’t to throw in an extra rep, but to let them rest instead.
When you lift weights, you are creating small tears in your muscles. These tears help your muscles grow, but only when paired with a period of rest. It is during this repair process that your muscles become stronger – helping you during your next workout session.
Aside from getting plenty of sleep and hydrating, there are other things you can do during this rest period that will help your muscles recover while also combating muscle soreness.
Next time you find yourself struggling to walk up stairs or even roll out of bed, try these tips.
Take a bath
Epsom salts – something readily available at drug stores and grocery stores – are a natural compound of magnesium and sulfate. Taking a bath with 1-2 cups of Epsom salts mixed in is said to help flush toxins from the body and ease pain and inflammation.
In addition, soaking in a warm bath at the end of a long day can do wonders to relax both the body and the mind, allowing you to make the most of your downtime.
Drink coffee before hitting the gym
Just in case you needed another reason to continue or amp up your coffee drinking habit, studies conducted by the University of Georgia found the amount of caffeine present in about two cups of coffee can cut down muscle pain by as much as 48% if consumed before working out.
So next time you plan on hitting the gym, you might want to consider stopping by your favorite coffee shop along the way.
Put it on ice
While a warm Epsom bath has the added benefit of overall relaxation, putting ice on sore muscles is said to be the most beneficial when it comes to speeding up recovery and preventing further damage to your muscles.
It might not be pleasant to sit with an ice pack, but the pain relief will make it worth it. Guaranteed.
Perform lighter exercises
This might seem counterintuitive, but a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that performing light exercise, similar to the exercises that caused the pain in the first place, can help alleviate some of the muscles soreness.
The idea is that these light movements can increase the amount of blood circulating to the area, helping the damaged muscle and making the tissue more elastic. Just make sure that the movements are more of a warm-up than a workout.
Try a foam roller
Getting a massage can certainly work out the kinks that come with sore muscles, but a foam roller can virtually do the same thing – at a fraction of the cost.
Foam rolling sore muscles places pressure on the body’s soft tissue, which, after some time, forces the body to “release” the tissue, allowing for less pain and greater mobility in that area.
It might not feel as great as a full body massage, but it can certainly do the trick. In addition, using a foam roller as a part of your warm up can lead to less muscle soreness later on. (Just make sure you don’t overdo it.)
Get a massage
Of course, if all else fails and you need a major relaxation session, nothing beats getting a massage.
Massage helps ease the inflammation that is the byproduct of a body working to repair damaged tissue. It also improves blood flow and releases the muscle tightness common after a hard workout.
A study discussed in the New York Times further explores why a massage can be so helpful in the recovery process.
Muscle soreness might be a pain to deal with, but think of it this way: it’s a physical representation of the hard work you’re putting in to getting and staying fit. And that is a good thing.