Many people are tempted to jump full-force into a new fitness routine with a “no pain, no gain” attitude. But soreness isn’t necessary to improve your mobility and overall fitness. And if you’re too sore to even feel like moving the next day, chances are good that you may abandon your exercise program. You may have even pushed yourself to the point of injury. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take before and after exercising to help avoid soreness and alleviate the pain if it does occur.
So how do you get and stay fit while avoiding soreness? The following are seven secrets that can help:
Many people are tempted to skip stretching, since it can seem like a waste of valuable workout time. In fact, it helps prepare your muscles for more vigorous activity. Stretching also helps break the cycle of moving from soreness to muscle spasms to contraction and tightness, according to WebMD.
In addition to stretching before your workout, some experts also recommend that you continue to stretch after starting to exercise and finish with another stretch to help avoid Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). This refers to pain and soreness you can feel as soon as six to eight hours after exercising. It usually peaks about 24 to 48 hours after you exercise.
2. Stay Hydrated
If your muscle cells are adequately hydrated, they’ll be more able to handle the changes in motion that they’ll undergo during exercise. Soreness can also be the result of cramping, which is usually caused by dehydration. Especially if you’re outdoors during hot weather, sweat can cause you to become dehydrated more quickly. Drink adequate amounts of water before exercising, and continue to sip it during and after your activity. You can also choose a beverage that’s rich in electrolytes, such as Gatorade or another sports drink.
3. Start Slowly
Especially if you’ve just started an exercise program, it’s better to begin slowly rather than quickly. Aim for gradually increasing the amount of time that you exercise, the number of reps you can do, and other benchmarks. Starting out too “gung ho” can lead to injury and soreness that will make you less likely to exercise on a regular basis. If you find yourself skipping workouts because you’re so sore that your mobility is affected, you’re overdoing it.
4. Follow the Proper Technique
Poor technique can make you sore, whether you’re swinging a tennis racquet or performing strength-training exercises. If you start with improper technique, you’re likely to unknowingly continue it. Working with a fitness trainer or taking lessons, especially if you’re starting a new exercise program, can help ensure that you’re not putting unnecessary strain on your muscles. This can go a long way toward preventing soreness or even injury.
5. Vary Your Routine
Performing the same type of exercise time after time is a recipe for soreness, since you’re working the same muscle groups over and over without giving them an adequate chance to recover. Take at least 48 hours to rest between exercises that use the same muscle groups. In addition to helping you avoid sore muscles, varying the type of exercise you get will also help increase your overall fitness.
6. Try Foam Rollers
Using large foam rollers has been found to reduce soreness after a workout, according to Prevention magazine, which cites several studies to back up the recommendation. They’re not exactly sure why it works, but according to one theory, it helps release small knots that form in overworked muscles and also increases circulation. The effect is similar to a quick (and inexpensive) do-it-yourself massage that lets you target specific muscles, increasing your ease of mobility after a workout.
7. Turn Up the Heat
Heat increases blood flow to sore muscles, which helps provide relief. Try a warm bath for overall soreness, and increase its effectiveness with Epsom salts, an old-fashioned remedy that actually works. Its magnesium is absorbed through your skin, helping to relax muscles and reduce soreness and inflammation. If you have soreness that’s more localized, try using a peel-and-stick heating pad.
By taking these steps before and after exercising, you can help reduce soreness and increase your mobility. This will help make you less susceptible to injury and ensure that your exercise programs stays on track.
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