Sore muscle relief

23 Aug

Yesterday I posted about The DOMS – that anticipated yet dreaded muscle soreness after a new or tough workout. Today, I’d like to make good on my promise to follow up with some ways to relieve the soreness and help aid recovery. There are a lot of great articles and tips out there from other bloggers, so I’ll keep this really short and send you to those resources for more info.

So how can you get relief?

Rest and wait it out. This is always an option, as the soreness will subside after a few days. This may not be ideal if you’re in a training cycle, but if you’ve just run a big race, take a rest! This is why I implement a mandatory 3-Day Rest Rule after half marathons.

Compression. I swear by wearing compression socks during my longest runs and races and then for recovery. You can also wear all other sorts of compression gear – tights, shorts, arm/calf sleeves, etc. Here are 5 reasons why compression is awesome.

Foam rolling/massage/trigger point release. These methods encourage myofascial release by breaking down soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue. It also increases blood flow to help with recovery. There are a lot of handy tools like the Foot Rubz massage ball that you can use on sore muscles. I love this little guy! I’d like to get myself The Stick as well. You can even use a screwdriver or rolling pin… Just do yourself a Google for running self-massager tools and you will have a plethora of options.

image_3Active recovery. Engaging in some light cross-training or yoga can help loosen up those muscles and won’t make you feel like you’re working too hard. Swimming, walking, cycling, Tai Chi, etc. Just take it easy.

Anti-inflammatories. Whether you take an over-the-counter remedy (e.g., ibuprofen and other NSAIDS) or eat some foods that are natural anti-inflammatories, you can get some relief. Just remember that these won’t speed healing. Many foods like cherries, salmon, blueberries and ginger all reduce inflammation. Here’s a small sampling of these kinds of foods:

Ice. Even though there’s not really scientific evidence that ice aids healing, it’s something us runners swear by. Recently, there’s been some buzz about research coming out that has found ice baths to be minimally effective and largely not worth the time and discomfort. I knew there was a reason I never got into a tub of ice… I still ice my knees and feet if they are sore, but that’s not DOMS related.

Stretch. While you should not stretch cold muscles, an easy warmup or light cross training followed by a few key stretches can help loosen up sore muscles. Ohh…it hurts so good. There are probably hundreds of articles out there that claim to list the top stretches for runners. For me, stretching my calves, hips, quads, and hamstrings are essential. Here’s one I do regularly (usually the standing version):



Check out other collections of stretches here, here, and here. There are also some who say stretching is no good, so do some research and make the decision that you feel is right for you.

Keep moving. Even if you are taking rest days, don’t just sit on your butt waiting for it to stop. Staying completely sedentary can increase stiffness. So, move around the house a little, go outside, or take a short walk around the block. You may want to take the elevator instead of the stairs, though…

Question for you: How do you deal with The DOMS?


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