In a way, post-workout soreness is kind of great: It's the closest thing to instant validation of your hard work, since it's an indicator that your muscles are getting stronger. On the flip side, it's not exactly fun when you can't stand up from your desk chair without groaning in pain. Fortunately, while aches and pains are all part of that whole "getting in shape" thing, there are actually some really effective ways to manage, diminish, and prevent them from happening in the first place—and we went straight to the pros to find out exactly what those ways are.
"One of my favorite ways to soothe sore muscles is to take a hot yoga class," says Amy Opielowski of CorePower Yoga. Stretching and remaining consistent with your fitness are two surefire ways to alleviate pain, and yoga offers both. But really, any kind of stretching works—and bonus points if you remember to do it immediately after that tough workout. "Stretching helps to release lactic acid in the muscles, making them less likely to stiffen up and get overly sore," explains Shalisa Pouw of Pure Barre. "Allowing yourself those few extra minutes to stretch out the muscles you worked so hard and to soak in the feeling of taking care of your body will benefit you throughout the rest of your day."
Consider it your own version of a deep tissue massage. "Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique, which uses pressure to help eliminate fascia tightness," explains Opielowski. "Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together. It is a three-dimensional web of tissue that extends from head to toe, from front to back, from interior to exterior." The technique is simple: "Roll just a few inches away from a highly sensitive sore area first and then use large, sweeping motions to cover the entire area," she says. "Spend 20 seconds on each spot, and avoid rolling the lower back."
Ginger is anti-inflammatory, and along with warming cayenne, it's one of the main ingredients in this glorious muscle rub. (It has a permanent spot in our gym bag.)
It's not just the perfect post-workout snack because it's refreshing: "Watermelon contains an amino acid that improves blood flow and increases overall recovery rate," says Opielowski. Who knew?
It sounds random, but scientists have actually found that this fruit drink dramatically aids in recovery. "It's loaded with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the swelling of your muscles after a hard workout," adds Pouw.
The warm water will feel soothing to begin with, but up the ante with an Epsom salt soak. "Epsom salts have magnesium sulfate which works as a slight muscle relaxer," says Pouw. She notes that it's best to do this the day after a tough workout, since jumping directly into a hot bath can inflame muscles even more.
Just boosting your dietary levels can help prevent soreness and speed recovery before it even begins. Nuts, seeds, leafy greens, fish, and dark chocolate are all magnesium-rich food sources.
Arnica is considered an all-natural alternative to Ibuprofen, thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory abilities. A topical arnica cream helps fight muscle soreness and joint pain and can even help bruises heal faster.
What's your favorite method for fighting soreness? Tell us your tips in the comments below!