With any exercise regimen, it’s normal to feel sore on the days following a hard workout. The microscopic tears and inflammation your body experiences are big contributors. And typically, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) sets in 24–48 hours after a workout. During this time, your muscles work to repair damaged tissue and adapt to the strain placed upon them. This type of discomfort is normal, but too much can indicate damage or injury. Try these tips to beat muscle soreness before it happens.
1. Foam rolling
Also known as self-myofascial release, foam rolling is an excellent approach to stretching. It increases your blood flow, relieves muscle tension, and decreases recovery time between workouts. Foam rolling is great at working through “knots” and returning muscles to their initial length. Check out this iFit foam rolling tutorial for some helpful tips on how to roll out your muscles.
2. Ice baths
Ice baths reduce swelling and protect against fiber micro tears that can occur after strenuous exercise. They also help remove lactic acid, a waste product built up during exercise that fatigues your body and gives you that “burn” during your workout. The removal of lactic acid from muscle is critical for your body to recover.
3. Dynamic stretching
Dynamic stretching refers to actively warming up your muscles, while going through the full range of motion at the same time. This is a safer method of increasing flexibility than static stretching since your muscles are already warm, which reduces the chance of pulling a muscle. Some examples of dynamic stretching include high knees, butt kickers, and walking kicks.
4. PNF stretching
A proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretch is a mixture of dynamic and static stretching. PNF stretching is performed with a partner and includes contracting and stretching the targeted muscle, while your partner places resistance. The PNF method can be used in post-workout stretching, in place of static stretching.
5. Adequately-timed stretches
Most people don’t realize the necessity of holding each stretch for 15–30 seconds to get a full, proper stretch. This allows your body time to go through the full range of motion and decreases the chance of injury from “bouncing.” Make sure to plan out your workout, so you leave adequate time for safe, proper-form stretches.
Proper form is vital when increasing flexibility. Incorrect technique can result in injury and long-term damage to your body. For example, overextension in a standing quadriceps stretch can result in a pulled muscle. When too much pressure is placed on the leg being stretched, your knee is forced to overextend. For a safer approach, bring your opposite hand to the foot of the leg being stretched, creating a diagonal line, which decreases the angle of extension for your knee. A good way to stay aware of your form is to stretch in front of a mirror or with a workout partner. In any stretch, remember to maintain a flat back, engaged core, and keep your shoulders down.
7. Pre-workout vs. post-workout
The timing of specific stretching methods can be crucial to increasing your range of motion, while also preventing injury. Dynamic stretching is the preferred method for pre-workout and static stretching is beneficial directly after your workout. Ballistic stretching, or the “bouncing” method, can be dangerous and is not recommended.
Frequent stretching is vital to increasing your flexibility. And increased flexibility reduces the chance of soreness and pulled muscles. Whether or not you work out every day, take the time to warm up and participate in some simple stretches. Join a yoga class or make time for your own stretching sessions throughout the week. Both are fun ways to get a great workout and improve your flexibility.
Now that you have the information you need, take the action to properly stretch and give your muscles the relief they deserve!
WARNING: This post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFit assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.