Pushing your body harder than usual is a double-edged sword — while it may be necessary to progress your fitness regimen to the next level, it inevitably comes with muscle soreness as a result of the small amounts of, completely normal, muscle damage (as the tears in the muscle fibers heal they become stronger). Luckily, there are natural ways to ease the pain — read, don't take soreness as an excuse to stop moving!
Here's a look at some things you can do to ease pain as soon as you wrap up an intense workout.
- Get some rest, but don't stay static. Keep your body moving with light activity (think a stroll in the park or low impact exercice) to prevent stiffness.
- Get a massage. New research shows that even a 10 minute massage can go a long way.
- While ice is most often recommended to reduce swelling after an injury, heat is best for general muscle soreness. Step into a hot tub, steam room, or sauna, or apply a heat pad or compress for 10-20 minutes to increase blood flow.
- Topical creams, especially ones formulated with arnica like Elemis' Instant Refreshing Cream, will help by distracting you from the pain with a soothing cooling sensation (albeit a somewhat short-lived sensation).
- Witch Hazel is another powerful ingredient often found in cooling creams. It can also be bought on its own and works as an effective temporary solution. Just massage it into sore areas.
- Cayenne, ginger, and pepperment are warming herbs that can have an anti-inflammatory effect (you can find topical creams formulated with these herbs in most health food stores).
- Drink lots of water, it's essential for your cells to work properly.
- Black cohosh, chamomile, and pepermint have been shown to ease pain when applied topically.
- Lavender oil is one of the best massage oils for sore or stressed muscles.
- Try to eat a snack that combines carbohydrates and protein (think a banana and a handful of nuts) within 30 minutes after your workout.
- When you work out, your body first burns through its stores of glycogen for energy before turning to muscle protein for energy. The more muscle protein that is broken down, the more sore you will be. Sports drinks can help prevent some degree of soreness by keeping your body fueled so it sticks to using muscle glycogen for fuel as long as possible.