We’ve all been there before; you’ve had an amazing workout, you hit the pillow for a good night’s sleep, only to awaken on your rest day with stiff, sore, achy muscles. It hurts to move. This could be delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is the pain you experience in your body anywhere from a few hours or even up to days after your workout; causing you to move around like you’ve just aged 30 years. The good news is that are techniques we can use to speed up our recovery and even some preventative measures we can take, to lessen the pain. Try these six ways to deal with muscle soreness on your rest day:
1. Treat yourself to a massage.
Although deep tissue massages tend to not feel the most pleasant at the time, this will greatly pay off since studies have shown a decrease in pain for athletes that took advantage of their sports massage therapist post exercise. 1
2. Take an ice bath.
Ice baths....even the thought of these give me chills. An ice bath requires you to submerge your body, or part of your body, in icy water at temperatures dropping as low as 50-59 degrees for a total of 10-15 minutes. Theory suggests the benefits to these ice baths is that they help your body recover faster after intense periods of physical activity by reducing inflammation and lactic acid build up, while increasing blood flow and circulation of nutrients post-ice bath.2 Although more research is needed for definitive results, some athletes swear by ice baths after an especially difficult workout—preferably in the summer months!
3. Turn up the heat
Well we’ve looked at applying cold temperatures to the body to help alleviate some of the symptoms of DOMS, it only seems natural that we take a look at the other end of the temperature scale. Studies have shown that when heat is applied to the muscles immediately post workout, pain is drastically lessened.3 Try using a hot water bottle, heat pad or hop in a hot bath to test out this form of recovery.
4. Roll it out
Foam rolling is a technique to loosen up tight muscles after exercise. You’re essentially using your own body weight to stretch out your muscles and tendons, breaking down scar tissue while increasing circulation. Research shows that foam rolling to reduce muscle soreness and increase range of motion.4 Most people that have tried foam rolling LOVE IT! If you want to try it out for the first time, ask your gym if they have one for you to experiment with before you commit to buying a foam roller for yourself.
5. Bend it like Beckham
Stretching should be incorporated as part of your training. Stretching is a great way to increase flexibility, range of motion and relieve tension due to stiff muscles. Adding in a variety of stretches to your post-workout routine is the best way to target those muscles that you’ve used throughout periods of physical activity. Hamstrings especially tend to take on a lot of tension during endurance exercise which can result in lower back pain, since these powerful muscles tend to carry the majority of your weight. Ankles and calves, responsible for flexibility and push during exercise, should not be forgotten either. Last but not least, don’t forget about your core, which can hold a lot of tension when you running, and if not stretched out, could lead to lower back pain. Try a seated half twist pose to loosen up your core and increase circulation.
6. Tighten up
Compression socks and arm bands are not just for style, they actually serve a purpose during and after a hard workout. Designed to be extremely tight to compress the leg or arm, compression gear may help your body to recirculate blood lactate post-exercise.5 You can find compression socks and arm bands in any athletic store.
For a look at how nutrition can help reduce muscle soreness, watch this video.
1. Yun-Hee S. (2014). Effects of Therapeutic Massage On Gait and Pain after delayed onset muscle soreness. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation. Department of Physical Therapy, College of Natural Sciences. Kyungnam University. 10(2).Accessed on 6/9/14 from http://e-jer.org/journal/view.php?number=2013600114
2. White GE, Wells GD. (2013). Cold-water immersion and other forms of cryotherapy: physiological changes potentially affecting recovery from high-intensity exercise. Extreme Physiology & Medicine;2(1):26. Accessed on 5/8/14 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3766664/
3. Petrosky J. (2013). Moist Heat or Dry Heat for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research. 5(6):416-425,Accessed on 6/9/14 from:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3808259/pdf/jocmr-05-416.pdf
4. Macdonald GZ, Button DC, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG. (2014). Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise.46(1):131-42.
5. Rider BC, Coughlin A, Hew-Butler T, Goslin B. (2013). EFFECT OF COMPRESSION STOCKINGS ON PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES AND RUNNING PERFORMANCE IN DIVISION III COLLEGIATE CROSS COUNTRY RUNNERS DURING A MAXIMAL TREADMILL TEST. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.