Everytime you start a new fitness programme or activity or perform a hard session of resistance exercise, you will experience muscle stiffness and pain. Though it might be extremely uncomfortable, muscle soreness or pain is inevitable and normal. It is known as “delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)” which is actually a sign that your body is getting used to the workout. This is what makes you stronger.
Exercise causes microscopic destruction to the muscles which causes muscle soreness. The stiffness mostly occurs in a day or two after the exercise/workout. The most common symptoms of DOMS include swelling, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the affected joints, increased tenderness and reduced strength in the affected muscles.The extent of soreness depends on the type of workout, your fitness background and the intensity of your session.
On the bright side this muscle pain does not last for very long. You start feeling better within a few days. The next time you do the same workout, your body is able to cope with it better and match the physical demands of the exercise.
There are various ways to reduce the risk of muscle soreness. If you’re struggling with stiff muscles, here are 8 things you can do -
A Good Warm Up
Warm-up is the most important element of an exercise program. It is very important to help prevent injury. Warm up prepares your mind and body for exercise and only when your body is prepared will the muscles be able to match the physical needs of the exercise or sport. A good warm up will reduce the risk of injury and will allow you to train better.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
Dehydration is a frequent problem in physically active individuals practicing high intensity workouts which makes the muscle soreness worse. It is important to keep yourself hydrated during and after exercise. Water also helps you flush out toxins from the body. One way to check your hydration level is checking the color of your urine. If it’s dark, you know you need to drink more water.
Whenever you are starting a new exercise or a new routine, go slow with it. Let your body adapt to the physical needs of the routine. This will only happen if you start with a gentle approach with light training. A gradual approach will minimize any soreness and stiffness.
Studies have shown that athletes tend to suffer less soreness and stiffness by intaking caffeine post their workout. Intaking two cups of coffee reduces upto 50% of the post workout pain.
Immediately after a tough workout, icing your muscles can prevent inflammation. The area is free to move when inflammation is down which in turn promotes healing.
Pineapple and Tart Cherries
Pineapples contain an enzyme called “bromelain” which has an anti-inflammatory benefit. Some studies have also shown that even tart cherries have anti-inflammatory powers which significantly reduce inflammation in the body.
Arnica is a herb that grows in Siberia, central Europe and North America. The plant containing active chemicals can be applied to the skin in a gel or cream form which helps with swelling and soreness.
The Right Shoes
Wearing the wrong shoes which do not fit you well or are of poor quality can lead to foot, leg and back pain. So, do not compromise on the shoes you pick for your run/workout.
Muscle pain is not restricted to beginners and can happen to anyone from beginners to elite athletes. Everybody should take precaution and exercise smart.