What to do when some workouts hurt more than others ...
Maybe you're coming back from a fitness hiatus, maybe you're working muscle groups you usually don't, or maybe you decided to try a Cardio Kick* class at Blue Lotus Yoga Studio for the first time ever and have been in a ridiculous amount of pain ever since. (Ahem, heard about that from a friend. I'm fine, not sore at all actually...) Whatever the reason, you're experiencing some extra muscle soreness, so here's how you should handle it.
1. Congratulate yourself.
Seriously! You just exerted a lot more energy and effort than you normally do! Your muscles are currently yelling at you for it, but, hey, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The next time you workout, you probably won't feel this bad again. I always feel a little pride whenever my abs or my arms hurt. My focus is usually my legs and lungs (runner), so when something else is sore and exhausted, I feel good knowing that I expanded my focus and helped out other parts of my body. Give yourself a pat on the back -- if it doesn't hurt too bad!
We like to skip stretching. It feels tedious (and sometimes a little painful!) and we just want to get the workout over and done with. But stretching helps get the knots out -- your muscles are all contracted and tight, so gently pulling on them can really help reduce the amount of muscle soreness.
3. Ice, ice, baby!
(Sorry, had to!) Honestly, I think icing is even more excruciating than having painful muscles, so I cut this out of my recovery routine more often than I should. It's a very rare situation where I think being freezing cold is worth the trouble. I mean, have you ever sat in an ice bath?! Every time I've attempted, I jump out after five seconds because it feels like my toes are going to fall off and I'm going to die. 'Scuse me, I'm supposed to be convincing you to ice. The cold really can reduce inflammation, but that doesn't mean to go overboard. Never leave ice on one particular spot for too long, and don't ice for longer than 20 minutes. Too much cold can actually do more harm than good -- like causing tissue damage and then your toes really may fall off and you'll die. Probably not, but you won't catch me risking it!
3. Turn up the heat!
Now this, I can get on board with. Heating sore muscles actually stimulates blood flow to the area, which can alleviate soreness. Hop in the bathtub, get a heating pad, bundle up! Whatever works! (Pro tip: Hot bath with Epsom salts! It's just good for your soul!)
4. Ease up, but keep going.
It's easy to get sore and then be like "nope, never again." But actually, you shouldn't give up yet! Muscle soreness is totally normal, and chances are that the first round is the worst round. It helps to keep using those muscles (again with the blood flow), but maybe go a little light on your activity until the soreness dies down. Go for a walk, a slow jog, or a swim! I think you'll be surprised by how much better your muscles feel after you're done!
Muscle soreness is normal, and even the fittest athletes deal with it regularly. Don't get discouraged! Keep in mind, though: if the pain is unbearable and prolonged, definitely go see your doc!
How do you handle tired muscles after a hard workout? Let us know in the comments below.
*For the record, Cardio Kick is a great class -- it's super fun and gets all your major muscle groups working. We used light hand weights, resistance bands, boxing moves, and loud music to get our heart rates up and our calories burning. Plus, it's only 45 minutes long so the pain is over before you know it!
The Run-Around is a weekly feature, focusing on fitness in and around Annapolis, MD.