Muscle soreness is a common occurrence in the days following a workout. You might be surprised to learn that this soreness is caused by small amounts of damage to the muscle and connective tissue around it and the inflammatory response this damage triggers. While this sounds alarming, it’s completely normal and nothing to worry about – in fact, it builds strength since the muscle is built back stronger during the repair process.
Sometimes, soreness comes from ramping up the intensity of your workout. Sometimes, it comes from returning to exercise after a break. Either way, it’s no fun to wake up feeling achy. Here are some tips to prevent and treat standard muscle soreness:
Hydration is key to any workout. Being dehydrated can cause soreness to last longer and feel more intense. Be sure to drink water before, during, and after your workout. Electrolyte supplements can help as well.
Warm-up and cool down
It’s essential to warm up before beginning a workout – it gets your blood flowing and enables more oxygen to reach out to muscles. It doesn’t have to take long – just two to three minutes of dynamic movement is enough to prepare your body for exercise. Some great warmups are a brisk walk, jumping jacks, and jogging in place. A post-workout cooldown is equally as important. Stretching and foam rolling are great for tired muscles.
Slowing increase intensity
If you’re hoping to ramp up your workouts, don’t go from 0 to 100. Take it slow and build strength incrementally. This allows your muscles to adapt and grow without over-taxing or straining.
It might seem counterintuitive but don’t stay stationary when you’re sore. Instead, try active recovery in the days following an intense workout. Gentle movements and light activity help keep blood circulating and speed up your body’s ability to heal and build muscle. A long walk or yoga are great options.
It is always important to listen to your body. If something feels off or more painful than your usual level of soreness, take a few days off and/or visit a medical professional as needed.