The best muscle relief after tough workouts.

You think you’re in good shape and then one hike (or bike ride or tennis game or water skiing session) later, you can barely get out of bed. We’ve all been there. A workout is designed to cause microtears in your muscles (don’t worry, that’s a good thing). 

BEFORE A WORKOUT

There are a few things you can do to prevent muscle soreness before it starts. Before exercising, it’s important to warm up. “Warming up muscles properly will lessen soreness,” Elevating the core temperature of the body creates more viscosity—or pliability—in the tissues. When the tissues are properly warmed, they will lengthen more easily and allow for a full range of motion. Lengthened muscles allow more space in the joints, which allows for more shock absorption. Your joints are a space where a shock is absorbed. When this is achieved, you reduce pain, injuries, and sore muscles.

The personal and owner of Bodyfit’s Kim said that warming up is crucial to preventing sore muscles. “Taking a brisk walk or slow jog for ten minutes will help increase blood flow to the working muscles,” she says. “Follow this with an additional dynamic warmup, which includes movement patterns to further increase flexibility and mobility, better preparing your body for the exercise of the day. Some great examples of dynamic exercises include leg swings, trunk rotations, arms circles, and cross-body arm swings.”

AFTER A WORKOUT

Jacuzzis, hot saunas, and soaking in Epsom salt baths are ways people have tried to relieve sore muscles after a workout. Do some people swear by those methods and others? Not so much. On the other end of the temperature spectrum, some folks are religious about taking cold showers and ice baths, but recent studies have found that those strategies might not be best for the body. And then there’s compression apparel, which some believe pumps and pushes lactic acid from the muscle tissues. 

If any of these soreness-reducing strategies work for you, great. But experts agree that the best way to relieve sore muscles after working out is by stretching. Kim says, “motion is lotion.” She recommends standing arm swings with a trunk rotation and varying foot positions. Kim also likes foam rolling to reduce muscle soreness, as well as static stretching for 30-second intervals. Make sure to target all major muscle groups including hamstrings, quads, calves, chest, triceps, shoulders, and even forearms.

Two more things to keep in mind when it comes to muscle soreness: Protein and water. “Ensure that you’re getting enough protein not only throughout the day but also immediately post-workout,” says Kim. I like to target about one gram of protein per pound of body weight each day…Ensuring a sufficient level of protein, vitamins, and minerals will help minimize muscle soreness and ensure optimal long-term health.

And don’t forget to drink water to relieve sore muscles after working out. Hyper-hydration with proper electrolytes will significantly reduce pain and soreness, as well as improve performance.