[DAD FITNESS] The 7 Best Ways to Relieve Muscle Soreness

I remember it like it was yesterday…

Being 16 and squatting down to pick up my books out of my high school gym locker and screaming in agony because my legs were so damn sore from my very FIRST leg workout!

But pain soon turned to laughs as I also heard my best friend and training partner at the time scream out profanities as he tried to bend down at his locker just down the hall.

Luckily back then I could lay around the house for days and play Super Mario Bros. until the soreness was gone.

Now being a busy dad and husband in my thirties, I don’t have the luxury of beating my body into the ground and waiting around until it’s time to do it again… nor do I want to.

I can just imagine asking my wife to pick up my baby daughter off the floor or shovel the driveway because I am too sore to bend over!

So whether you’re a long time lifter or a New Year newbie, we will all experience this one time or another; the painful muscle soreness that follows an intense workout or what the exercise geeks (me included) refer to as DOMS.

It is also one of the biggest reasons that beginners quit their exercise routine before they even get started because of the soreness following their first workout.

For the best way to relieve, or better yet, even prevent muscle soreness, read on.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

This can occur whether you have been working out for years or are just starting to exercise.

It usually sets in the following day but actually is even worse the second day, as it peaks 48 hours after exercise.

Basically its the microscopic damage of your muscle fibers that causes the inflammation and swelling of the muscles putting additional pressure around the surrounding joints.

Unfortunately, so many guys think that not being able to lift your arms after an arm workout the next day means you really got a great workout and the results are sure to follow.

Yes, it does indicate that you did breakdown muscle tissue which is the start of the muscle building process, but soreness isn’t the indicator that you should use to grade your workouts.

I could punch you in the arm a hundred times and you would be sore the next day but it wouldn’t give you 21 inch pythons…

The best way to track your progress in your workouts is in your performance. Aim for breaking your own personal records each workout by lifting one more rep or lifting one more pound than the previous workout and your fitness level will improve. That’s why a workout journal is a must if you’re serious about making progress.

But I bet what you really what to know is how to avoid soreness or even relieve muscle soreness when you do get it.

It is January, after all, and we are all eager to be fitter and not fatter in 2010.

1. To prevent it, try not to do too much too soon, and ease into any exercise program, whether it’s lifting weights, running, or your favorite recreational sport. Whatever workout routine you are starting, just do half of the exercise volume the first week to introduce your muscles to the exercises.

2. Warmup properly BEFORE you workout and stretch AFTER you workout to remove the lactic acid from your muscles and start the recovery process.

3. Also take rest days from your workouts which means don’t work those same sore muscles with hard training until the soreness subsides. Get some “active rest” by going for a walk with your family or playing with your kids in the yard (lying on the couch watching CSI is not considered active rest!).

4. Make sure you are eating high quality protein throughout the day to provide your body with the nutrients it needs for muscle repair and stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.

5. Contrast showers of hot and cold have been shown to aid in muscle recovery (two minutes hot, followed by 30 seconds cold repeated two-four times).

6. Getting lots of healthy fats in your diet through fish oils, mixed nuts, seeds, avocados and grass fed meat will also help to scavenge free radicals and reduce inflammation in your muscles and throughout your entire body

These recovery tips all help but…

7. The best way to relieve muscle soreness is to MOVE. Despite the initial discomfort of moving your sore muscles, getting around and increasing your blood flow will help to nourish the damaged muscles with nutrient rich blood to aid in muscle repair.

Light recreational exercise such as power walking, swimming, and even bodyweight exercises are a great way to loosen up those sore muscles and get you moving again.

So before you start piling on the plates, remember you can’t rush progress. Be smart with your workouts and give your body the time it needs and it will reward you with the results you’re looking for… or you can tough it out and walk around funny like the kids in “skinny jeans”… the choice is yours.

Image credit: RRRuslan

6 thoughts on “[DAD FITNESS] The 7 Best Ways to Relieve Muscle Soreness

  1. Hi Sean,

    Great article. The tips are similar to what I prescribe to my athletes as well, however I would like to point out that what you say in comment #2 regarding lactic acid is a not exactly right. Please understand that I am not attempting to discredit your understanding of physiology, I am just trying to help the readers to understand what actually happens in the muscles to cause muscle soreness.
    Every time one of the sport coaches here at the school mentions lactic acid soreness I feel the need to correct him, so please don’t take this as a hit on you, but some clarity for your readers ( I had to relearn this one time as well!).

    You say…
    ” Warm up properly BEFORE you workout and stretch AFTER you workout to remove the lactic acid from your muscles and start the recovery process”…

    This is mostly correct. It is important for us to complete a quality warm-up with some movement and low intensity drills to increase the blood flow. However saying that we need to remove the lactic acid from our muscles is now understood to be a bit of a myth. The lactic acid will eventually be reused as a fuel within the Kreb’s Cycle and further into the Cori cycle via gluconeogenisis. The end result of this process is more fuel for the body, not necessarily sore muscles.

    I am sure that what you mean by this comment is to ‘flush out the acidosis’ which is now understood to be the cause (along with the unaccustomed eccentric muscle contractions). Warming up and cooling down helps this process to a certain extent, and moving/active rest days are great ideas as well. Most importantly, Sean’s idea to use contrast baths is a wonderful way to decrease the chance of muscle soreness, and I would add that learning how to integrate myofascial rolling exercises is a must. There are many products out there, and I have used most but have enjoyed using a combination of a foam roller/the stick/lacrosse ball and even a pvc pipe with a yoga mat glued to it.

    There is plenty of information out there on the internet regarding myofascial release techniques. I encourage the readers to do their bodies a favor and give it a try…of call Sean…I am sure he will be able to help you manage your workouts and your delayed onset muscle fatigue!

    Thanks again for the article Sean, keep them coming!


  2. Hey Karl,

    Thanks for the info.

    I agree with what you are saying as I try not to get too “sciency” with my writing even though I could.

    I just meant to make the point to static stretch post workout to enhance your cooldown while you bring your heart rate back to baseline and start the recovery process within the muscles ASAP.

    I guys like us love to dig into the physiology of what’s happening behind the scenes but I think most busy dads don’t have the time to read all the science and just want advice that they can use right way, lol

  3. Thanks for the article! I forgot about hot/cold showers. I am not working b/c of New year’s res, but the new year coincided with new employement for me where I am not able to join a gym. I am so excited to be working out again and it is really hard to try and pace myself b/c I want to go balls to the wall right off the bat. I was of the school of though where if I did not feel pain the next or following days, I did not workout hard enough; I’ve never heard anyone say otherwise (shows you how much I know!) Thanks for the tips.

  4. Happy New Year Sean and your family.Thanks alot for the article because after a workout I would feel sore than feel sorry for myself and rest while taking pain killers. Feel better than try again and sore than go through the same. So in the end after going round and round I give up, I am now going to try again and think this time will suceed.
    Sorry this slot is only for comments, but may I kindly ask a personal question. I have piled on a alot of weight and I am now trying to exercise and eat healthy. I walk for half an hour every morning than do floor exercise for another half hour alternating arms and legs one day and next abdominal and Chest musles the next day. I was wondering whether what I was doing was right because in Uganda we do not have fitness trainers to help us out.

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