As I continue to reintroduce running back into my exercise routine, I’ve noticed some discomfort in my calves, especially in the morning hours following an evening run. One of the major downfalls of starting any new exercise program is the dreaded soreness that sets in shortly following those first few workouts. Although this soreness is tough to avoid, there are ways to expedite the recovery process and limit muscle soreness moving forward.
Muscle soreness typically occurs following any changes in your exercise routine. The root cause of the pain is actually tiny injuries to your muscle fibers and connective tissue, fittingly referred to as microdamage. Typically, within a day of the triggering event, the muscle soreness is felt. This delay is often referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness. The good news is that as you progress through your routine, bouts of muscle soreness become fewer and farther between since your muscles keep getting stronger.
There are steps you can take prior to and following a triggering event in your exercise routine to help alleviate some of the pain. Here are a few of them:
1) Progressively increase your workload and aim to avoid major jumps. If you slowly add more minutes to your routine or introduce heavier weights over time, it can help limit some of the soreness. It ultimately comes down to walking a fine line; you want to challenge yourself to see the best results.
2) Make sure you’re drinking enough water. Water is the oil of the body; maintaining proper hydration levels can limit some of the microdamage and help with the recovery process.
3) Aid in the repair. Following a triggering event, be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat a nutritious, lean, protein-rich meal.
4) Massage the affected area. Getting or performing your own massage on the sore area shortly after a workout and again a few hours later can help reduce pain. It is believed that massage helps move fluids from the injured muscle fibers, reducing inflammation.
5) Make anti-inflammatories a last resort. If the pain is unbearable, anti-inflammatories have been shown to help reduce inflammation associated with muscle soreness.
What have you found that works best for reducing your soreness?
As always, consult with your physician prior to starting a physical activity routine or starting any medications.