Working out feels the best immediately after you’ve finished — when you’ve got that “just accomplished something” fatigue and you no longer feel like you’re going hurl.
Those effects start to feel worse as soon as mere hours after you’ve finished, when you experience that can’t-walk soreness and begin to question if you’ll ever make it to a gym again. That post-workout pain can last for days, cause muscle tension and, if you exercise through it, can cause real muscle damage.
Read more: This is why you should take a break in order to stay fit
So what are you supposed to do when you’re always sore, but want to keep up with your gym routine? Try incorporating some combination of the four tips below to sooth damaged muscles, repair tissue, and boost relaxation and blood flow. They’ll speed up your recovery and ease your muscle soreness and get you back into the gym sooner.
1. Eat a banana
Getting enough potassium in your diet can fight dehydration and muscle cramps mid-workout, says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. “While the jury is still out on whether potassium will prevent muscle soreness, it definitely prevents post-workout pain and dehydration that can cause severe muscle cramps after a workout,” she says.
Most people don’t get the recommended 3 500mg of potassium per day, so it’s essential to include potassium rich foods (like bananas) in the diet. “A medium banana will provide 400mg or about 11% the daily value of potassium,” Rizzo recommends.
Read more: The best recovery fuel plus 8 other food truths from bertus basson
2. Roll that foam!
Take some time to give your body some love – foam rolling can break tension in the muscles and fight soreness. While it might hurt a bit while you’re doing it, it’ll alleviate post-workout pain and tightness down the line, preventing future injury and alleviating next-day pain. To work a specific area intensely, swap in a lacrosse ball for a foam roller says Charlee Atkins, certified strength and conditioning specialist.
Atkins created the Le Stretch class where participants use lacrosse balls as a form of self-myofascial release on the knots within the muscles. “By applying pressure at the knot, the elastic fibres move from their bundled position back towards their true alignment. We are then able to get into lengthening body positions with better alignment, restoring proper movement patterns,” she says.
The rolling also enhances flexibility and range of motion, improves muscle imbalances, boosts blood circulation and reduces the risk of injury, she says. “The class focuses on the top three hot spots for every body, from the active athletes to the desk warriors: Hips, shoulders and low back,” she explains.
Read more: The one foam roller that will make you a better, faster, stronger runner
3. Turn your shower into torture
A great way to soothe achy muscles is to alternate between hot and cold temperatures, which you can easily do so in the shower.
“These types of contrast showers, where you alternate the water as hot as you can handle for 20 to 30 seconds, and then turn it as cold as you can handle for 20 to 30 seconds,” will fight tension and improve blood flow, says Structure House’s Fitness Director, Dustin Raymer.
Doing these alternations for about 10 or so rounds will be enough to have reduce your post-workout pain, he says. “Ideally, the water will get progressively hotter and colder the more you do this,” he says. As you get more used to certain temperatures, increase the intensity.
“The idea is that you are creating an external ‘pumping’ of the blood by cooling muscles (pushing blood out) and then heating muscles (pulling blood back in). This should bring fresh blood and nutrients into the muscles for quicker recovery,” he explains.
Read more: This guy took freezing cold showers every day for a week. Here’s what happened
4. Or soak in salt water
In general, a hot bath post-workout can make you feel relaxed. “The hot temperatures of the bath pulls the toxins to the surface of the skin. As the temperature of the water starts to cool down, the toxins flow out of the body through the skin and into the water,” says Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse in New York City.
“Along with ridding toxins from the body, a bath soothes aches and pains, improves circulation, and relaxes the mind and body. Ingredients that are great for adding to your baths are baking soda, Epsom salt, sea salt or Himalayan salt, apple cider vinegar and essential oil,” she says.
Epsom in particular is beneficial for alleviating post-workout pain. “Epsom salt relieves muscle cramps and pain, inflammation, aches, soreness, and it relaxes the body and increases blood flow throughout the body,” she says. Why? It’s magnesium sulphate. “Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer and in a salt form, it pulls excess water and lactic acid build-up away from the injured tissues and reduces swelling,” she explains.
After your next intense strength training workout, fill your bathtub with warm (not hot) water and pour two cups of Epsom salt in. Soak for at least 15 to 20 minutes Do it up to three times a week. Lee advises, though, that Epsom salt baths are not recommended for people with heart conditions, elevated blood pressure or diabetes.
Originally published on www.menshealth.com
Image credit: iStock