My aching tush (and arms and hamstrings and calves)

As some of you may know, I’m currently training for the New York Marathon, on November 7th.  As the mileage keeps increasing, I find that after certain workouts, I just get INSANELY sore.  On Monday after running 10 miles (woohoo!) I was literally hobbling around my apartment afterwards, hoping the aching in my thighs would end!  While stretching regularly after workouts (stretching cold muscles before a workout can be damaging and may tear muscles if done too vigorously) is always a good thing, sometimes stretching just isn’t enough.  What else can you do??

While most of you may not be training for something like the Marathon, sore muscles are common whenever you do a strenuous, ball-busting workout.  Particularly when you start a new workout routine, sore muscles can be really hard to overcome.  But the worst thing that you can do in this situation is to stop exercising altogether.  Sore muscles means the exercise is working!  Delayed-onset muscles soreness (DOMS) is the muscles soreness that occurs 24-48 hours after doing a strenuous workout.  Basically your muscles get teany-tiny little tears in them, and the pain is caused by both these microscopic tears, and the accompanying inflammation that goes along with it.  Sounds a little scary right?  But, your body is a pretty smart machine, and muscles eventually adapted to the new stresses placed on them by getting stronger.  Or in other words…No pain, no gain.

So what can you do to make the pain go away faster?  While there isn’t a be-all end-all cure for DOMS, there are several things that you can do to alleviate some of the pain and make recovery quicker.

First, STRETCH!  Stretching is a HIGHLY underrated activity that goes a long way towards making you feel better, faster.  I always find that I’m rushing to get home or to go somewhere after a workout and stretching really is the last thing on my mind — but incorporating just an extra 5 minutes to quickly stretch can make such a difference!  While stretching won’t make the pain go away immediately, stretching after a workout can, according to Rick Sharp, an exercise physiologist at Iowa State University, “help break the cycle.”

If the pain is truly awful, try taking a day off, or do light exercises that are easier on your muscles, such as swimming, elliptical or even walking.  Getting the blood flowing through these muscles will help to alleviate the soreness by providing fresh blood and oxygen to these muscles, leading to faster repair.  Also, anti-inflammatory meds can be taken to alleviate the symptoms of DOMS.

Finally, applying heat to the muscles can be effective at increasing blood flow to the areas of soreness and providing “healing nutrients to the injured site”.  Heat wraps such as Thermacare (you can pick up at any drugstore) help.  I find that sometimes just taking a hot bath with some salts in it can really reduce my pain and make me feel a million times better.

The bottom line is that the pain will go away — just take it easy for a couple days and don’t let the temporary soreness sideline your exercise goals!

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