It’s normal to feel at least some soreness after increasing the intensity of your workout or starting new exercises. They’re a sign that you’re getting stronger, building muscle. Muscle soreness after exercise, also known as delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS, is a signal that you caused damage to muscle tissues. When that happens, the body triggers the repair process leading to inflammation at the site. While chronic inflammation contributes to many different chronic diseases, some degree of inflammation is important for growth and repair.
Although the soreness may be a good thing, it’s not the most pleasant feeling either. Your muscles need time to heal, so there isn’t one magic solution, but there are strategies to help speed recovery and relieve soreness.
Foam rolling helps to decrease swelling in the muscles and enhance tissue healing. It’s all about myofascial release, which helps to relieve tension in connective tissue. Using a foam roller to roll those sore muscles out like dough has been shown in scientific studies to reduce DOMS and even improve performance in subsequent workouts. Use it on days you don’t work out as well as during your warmups and cool downs as part of an overall recovery plan.
Ice baths help to reduce tissue breakdown and swelling that leads to DOMS by constricting blood vessels. Some believe it’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to soothe those post-exercise pains. Also known as cold water immersion, you can take a dip in an ice bath at home, sitting in the chilly water up to your chest for 10 or 15 minutes. It doesn’t have to be freezing, with the ideal temperature ranging from 50 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit helping to reduce muscle soreness by approximately 20 percent.
Eat Tart Cherries
While good nutrition is important for overall health and fitness, if you consume tart cherries or their juice, you’ll be flooding your body with anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that help to reduce excess inflammation. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports revealed that marathoners who consumed the juice five days before, the day of, and 48 hours following the races experienced less muscle soreness. They also showed signs of better muscle function and recovery.
You probably don’t feel like moving your sore muscles, but active recovery, which means performing light exercises and restorative movements, can be one of the best ways to reduce soreness. It may be painful initially, but after a few minutes, once the muscles are warmed up and the blood is flowing, it will usually begin to feel better. You might simply go for a walk or practice gentle yoga poses.
Never underestimate the importance of quality rest. If you’re one of those people who think you only need 5 or 6 hours of sleep, you’re not giving your body the time it needs to recover. Not only are you slowing recovery time, but you could be setting yourself at a higher risk of injury in the future. Getting enough sleep, ideally 7 to 8 hours each night, is one of the best ways to speed muscle recovery and reduce soreness.