How to ease muscle soreness as you fall into fitness

November 21, 2016 | by Jamail Mays
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

The leaves are falling, the air is getting crisp. Before you know it, you could be packing on the pounds from all that holiday binge-eating.

Whether it’s the cold weather or the extra calories from those delicious holiday feasts, now is the time of year when most people think about heading back to the gym. If it’s been months (or maybe even years) since you’ve been to the gym, you may experience that pesky phenomenon known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

You know, that achiness that makes every step a challenge for a few days after a hard leg workout, or that tenderness every time you lift your arms following your first upper body workout in a long time.  This is an unfortunate side effect of exercising and it is a reason why many people give up on their fitness journey. They just don’t want to deal with the discomfort.

While there is not much you can do to avoid it, there are a few tricks to ease this feeling as you fall back into fitness:

  • Warm up. Don’t just dive right into the heavy stuff. Take about 10 minutes to ease your body into the workout by walking at a brisk pace, jogging, riding a stationary bike, or hopping on an elliptical. Couple any of these with a good stretching routine and you’ll be well prepared for every single rep of your workout. Need advice on some good stretches? Contact the fitness specialists at Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness for a few tips.
  • Cool down. While it is common in the fitness industry to recommend a good cool down following your workout, evidence suggests that a cool down alone will not affect post-exercise soreness. However, when coupled with a warm-up, a good cool down has been shown to reduce the overall amount of soreness felt after working out. How do you cool down? Pretty much the same way you warmed up. You can also cool down by applying ice to any extra sore areas in the days following tough workouts.  This works by numbing the area and reducing any swelling. Remember, when using an ice pack, make sure to place a towel between the bag and your skin to avoid any superficial irritation to your skin. Also, keep an eye on the time — 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of the area) is plenty of time to achieve the desired effects. Any time longer than this is unnecessary.
  • Massage. Sports massage has been shown to reduce the soreness experienced after exercising by 30 percent. Take the time to treat your body to a nice sports massage at Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness. Worried it may take a toll on your schedule and your budget? A more cost-effective and time efficient option is to foam roll. Add this self-massage technique to your warm up and cool down routine and save a few bucks so that you can get that sports massage when you really need it. See the fitness staff at either our Naperville or Seven Bridges location for advice on how to foam roll.
  • Hydration. What you put into your body before, during and after your workout is vital to getting the most benefit out of your workout. It is no secret that dehydration leads to muscle cramping. Why complicate your DOMS with muscle cramping from dehydration? Be sure to hydrate before, during and after your workout. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends drinking 16-20 oz. of water or sports drink about 4 hours before exercise, 8-12 oz. just before exercise, 3-8 oz. every 15-20 minutes during exercise, and 20-24 oz. after exercise.
  • Nutrition. The reason you experience DOMS after an unaccustomed workout is because you are breaking down the muscle fibers on a microscopic level, which causes your body to adapt by rebuilding the muscles to be stronger. That being said, you will want to give your body all the nutrients it needs to replenish its energy stores and rebuild that muscle. This means consuming plenty of carbohydrates and protein before and after exercising to put your body in the best position for success. Some good examples of pre- and post-exercise snacks are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix and chocolate milk. For further assistance with proper nutrition, nutrition orientations are offered at both Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness locations.
  • Exercise. That’s right. The best way to get rid of that soreness is do what caused you to have it in the first place. So don’t let that little bit of achiness deter you from accomplishing your fitness goals. Get back to the gym and stay active!

Explore the fitness services at Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness.

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