Soreness is somewhat of a scientific mystery. Experts are not sure why sometimes people sore and other times they don’t. Nevertheless, this uncomfortable sensation in your body that often makes you feel like you did a good job at the gym may be a sign you have actually overdone it. Every time we do a resistance exercise, the muscles tear on a micro level, causing the soreness.
“What most people don’t understand is that everything needs to recover, not just your muscles,” Nicholas Odorisio, voted Best Personal Trainer in Philadelphia in 2012 and founder of Nick’s Gym. “Hydration, electrolytes, hormones as well need to recover.” The most popular “medicine” for this condition is rest but, sadly, you can’t use that as an excuse to stay in bed all day and watch TV.
Mobility is key, Ordorisio says. “You have to actively move your body. This includes any activity that makes your body go through a range of motion.” It could be yoga, whole body movement or simply walking. All of these fall under the Active Recovery category. You still have to do some light exercises in order to alleviate the pain. It’s just as effective as a massage, according to a study.
Think of movements that will promote blood flow to the muscles, which helps them to eliminate waste more quickly. Jogging, incline walking on a treadmill, and swimming are all great options. The latter is a good choice because it’s low-impact and activates pretty much all of the muscles in the body. “Don’t do anything that is going to tax your system too hard,” Odorisio adds.
Another thing you can do – in case you forgot to drink some chocolate milk after a workout session and got sore – is foam rolling. “It can be really helpful,” according to Odorisio. The muscles lump with the fascia, more popularly known as the connective tissue in the body, causing the sore feeling. Roll away and unknot them. Foaming after a workout is recommended also because it can help prevent such knots from forming later.
Reducing soreness means increasing blood circulation which can be done by working the joints. You can do certain exercises at home if you can’t go outside for a walk or to the gym. “Deep squats are great,” Odorisio says. It activates a lot of muscles – lower body, hips, glutes, calves, core, back, shoulders. You can also do side to side squats. The joints open and close which allows them to receive the necessary nutrients to hydrate, recover and get rid of the scar tissue. Work your upper body by moving your arms and wrists slowly in tight circles.
Exercise doesn’t have to be the only way you reduce soreness. Light massages help as well because they promote blood flow. Warm baths are perhaps the most pleasant option. Higher body temperature speeds up circulation, which means more oxygen and nutrients getting to your muscles.