Soreness might not be an indicator of muscle growth. And the jury is out on the real reasons behind DOMS. But one thing is certain. Being sore sucks! And it's downright uncomfortable.
A little soreness is fine. But chronic soreness that keeps you from training as often as you'd like is another thing.
Below are 5 easy, practical home remedies to help with the nagging soreness. They’ll also help with blood circulation, performance, and overall relaxation. The trick is to make these a part of your regular routine. You can do them daily or just a few times per week, but consider them long-term practices.
1. Light Resistance Training
I know it may seem counterintuitive, but some light resistance activity will help in so many ways. In the days following a hard training session, waste material pools into the muscle along with damage to the fibers, all while repair and growth are trying to happen. Some light exercise will help blood pump out some of the waste so the good stuff can get in there and do its job.
This isn’t a full-on workout per se, it’s simply light activity to flush out the bad and make room for the good. It will also help your body coax into recovering faster and more completely while stimulating your metabolism.
Try This: A short but comprehensive, multi-joint session done at home can do the trick. You could also perform a short gym session on a cardio-only day. If you choose the at-home option, a series of a set or two of push-ups, body weight squats, inverted rows, bodyweight calf raises, and possibly a set of burpees will do the trick.
The key is to fill the muscle with blood, get it active, and avoid any muscular failure. You don’t want to burn-out all over again. At first it will seem rather tiring and difficult, but as you go from week to week, you will start to reap the rewards.
It would be great to afford a personal massage therapist each week. Kneading-out knots, kinks, and tight areas on a regular basis will do wonders for recovery. Unfortunately, most of us can’t shell-out that kind of dough. But you can’t discount the benefits of massage. In addition to the above benefits it also increases blood flow, accelerates recovery, and relieves potential chronic soreness. But what to do if you can’t live like a movie star?
Try This: By now you’re no stranger to the equipment available for self-massage. For example, rollers, baseball-sized roller balls, and special stick-like apparatuses are cheap and easy to use. Rolling out knots and kinks or just simply rolling all the major muscle bellies is very effective for long-term recovery and regulating soreness. For those of us who have a significant other, well, we have an advantage. The only caveat is that you return the favor.
A hot, soothing bath is relaxing, but it serves many other purposes as well. As for soreness, baths can be of great help aiding in better blood circulation, relaxation of stressed muscles, and with the addition of Epsom salt or a similar product, can reduce swelling due to fluid retention. A tub or spa with jets is also a great aid in loosening tight areas and reducing soreness.
Try This: Choose at least two nonconsecutive days per week to soak in a hot bath, preferably in a tub equipped with jets. Much like massages, this type of relaxation will require weeks to take effect. Think of it as a cumulative effect and your body has to coax into this type of treatment.
4. Light Stretching
Light stretching is the perfect partner for light resistance training. Perform light exercise first in order to flush blood into the major muscle groups and warm them for protection once you get to the stretching portion of the session.
This warm-up/stretching practice will not only increase rate of recovery and combat soreness, but also help improve flexibility around your joints and help you avoid injury in future training sessions.
Try This: After a thorough warm-up, perform a short but comprehensive stretch session focusing not only on the areas trained that day, but also surrounding areas. For example, stretching quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves after a leg day is fine, but it would be even better to focus on glutes, lower back, and other areas of the hip for a more complete stretch/mobility session.
5. Fluid Intake
This is arguably the most overlooked aspect of recovery and soreness. Staying hydrated is normally seen as a benefit for those wanting better performance. You hear that even a slightly dehydrated state can impair strength levels and rates of recovery between sets.
However, staying hydrated is just as important for post-training recovery and soreness. Since blood flow is key in cleaning out waste products from muscle cells so they can more effectively recover and grow, water intake directly affects this. The more water consumed, the easier time the body has to perform these processes.
Try This: Now, I know you’re drinking water prior to and during training, but you should also be paying attention to fluid intake after as well. Additionally, keeping water intake high even during downtime and off days is just as important.
Of course during periods of hard training, fluid intake will be much more in demand. You will be losing fluid and it must be rapidly replaced, but in order for proper functions to continue, water needs to keep flowing. The bottom line is if you are drinking a gallon of water per day, for example, be sure you are drinking plenty after training and the same amounts on non-training days as well.