Have you ever experienced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)? Following a long run, intense workout or even a hot yoga session, muscle soreness can begin to creep in. Sometimes it’s not felt till the next morning and hits you with such an intensity everyday tasks feel impossible. The good news is that there are preventative measures as well as post-soreness remedies to help keep the pain away.
Before your run
Ditch the pre-run energy drinks and reach for a cup of coffee 45 minutes before your run. According to MensHealth.com, coffee can be a great pre-workout when you drink it at the right time. Timing is important to hit your peak right as you begin to train. The caffeine gives you the same energy boost as a sports drink without the calories, additives and creatine found in supplements. A cup of coffee raises energy levels to free fatty acid mobilization. Basically, if you drink your coffee at the right time, your body is more likely to use stored fat as energy. The increased use of fat then decreases the production of lactate in the muscles. A build-up of lactate in your muscles causes pain and burning. So before you take off for your morning run, enjoy a cup of coffee.
Your coffee will be most effective if you also eat a small pre-workout snack. Complex carbohydrates along with protein will help fuel your workout and reduce fatigue.
Long before your run, make sure you are staying hydrated. For proper hydration, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 17 ounces two hours before your run and to drink regularly throughout the workout to replace the fluids you’re losing through sweat. Dehydration can lead to muscle soreness, cramps, headaches, exhaustion, and more undesirable symptoms. It’s an easy fix. Drink water regularly and replace what you sweat out.
Stretch and warm up your muscles. This wakes the muscles up and gets your blood flowing. Start out with light stretches followed by a slow jog, lifting light weights, or jumping rope. Ease into your workout instead of going full throttle at step one.
During your run
Make sure you are using the right equipment. Your muscles need proper support that includes a balanced diet, hydration, warmups and proper clothing. Compression socks are a great way to combat muscle soreness in your legs and feet. According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, compression is excellent for muscle recovery. The reason for the soreness is that the muscles are swelling, causing pressure-related pain. Improved blood flow during the run can help reduce the swelling. Compression socks help by improving the circulation of blood within the legs. By taking proper care of your feet, ankles, legs, and circulation, you’ll enjoy your training days even more as well as the day after.
During the run listen to your body. Stay within your limits and progress slowly. With time, you will increase the speed or length of your run, but not if you hurt yourself. Take preventive measures to avoid common running injuries by following these steps. Be sure to use correct form, wear proper clothing and learn to listen to your body. It is telling you what it needs, so pay attention.
Have a regular routine that allows you to rest muscle groups properly while also increasing your body’s tolerance to the run. As you increase tolerance, your body will become more efficient at absorbing lactate.
After your run
Following your run, stretch to relax the muscles and help circulate the blood back to your heart to aid in recovery. Use foam rollers to massage out any knots and increase the blood flow. This step is less about muscle soreness and more about circulation. Following an intense exercise, your blood vessels can expand in the legs. If you suddenly stop exercising without properly cooling down, the blood can pool and you may experience dizziness or fainting. Continuing to wear compression socks post-workout will help promote proper circulation and avoid pooling of blood in the ankles and feet. Decreasing your run to a brisk walk to lower your heart rate is an important part of the cool-down process.
Your diet can also help to remove lactate. Continue to stay hydrated, we can’t stress this enough. Eat a balanced diet complete with small meals throughout the day. Eat a post-workout snack with a 4 to 1 ratio of complex carbohydrates to protein, helping to restore nutrients the muscles used during the workout. Have tart cherry juice on hand. The antioxidants found in tart cherry juice have been shown to reduce inflammation and pain. This is due in part to a high amount of potassium. A small study published in the Bali Medical Journal reported that drinking banana juice, also high in potassium, results in decreased lactic acid.
Play around with your diet. No two people have the same nutritional needs. Know what it is you are lacking, where to make improvements, what foods your body reacts to and in what way, and then make adjustments accordingly. Create a food journal and track how you feel after eating one thing prior to a run as compared to another. Note any changes in your run.
An added benefit to having tart cherry juice on hand is that it helps you sleep better. Muscle soreness can make it difficult to fall asleep and this little drink helps lull you to sleep while reducing the swelling and pain.
Massage and vibration are also great ways to decrease lactic acid. In 2017, Technology and Health Care reported the use of whole-body vibration as an effective treatment for women immediately following an intense workout. Perhaps those vintage vibration exercise belts actually do have a purpose beyond being meme material! If you try it out, be sure to come back and tell us about it. Better yet snap a picture in your crazy compression socks and tag us on social media. We think these socks would be perfect! Which ones would you choose?
Sore muscles are normal but the amount of soreness can be decreased by taking pre-workout, during and recovery steps, since DOS is an inflammatory-repair response to damaged muscle cells. Making sure your circulation has adequate support during and after the run is vital!