Knowledge is power—and identifying the cause of your pain is key to recoverying quickly, or ending up sidelined for a while. Muscle soreness can last up to 72 hours, so if you find the feeling of pain in your muscles is lasting a week or more, you may have a strain. It’s important to listen to your body. A strain occurs when those same muscles that are torn during exercise are torn in larger amounts and to more significant degrees—and takes several weeks to heal. Check in with your doctor if you feel like your soreness is beyond “just” soreness.
If you are constantly doing the exact same routine, the minute you try something new, the muscles you haven’t been incorporating are going to suffer tenfold on the soreness scale. Try different workouts, like swimming, rowing, running, or boxing, to build total body strength so you can keep all of your muscles ready for anything.
Eating protein won’t reduce muscle soreness, but it will help your muscles to recover more quickly so you don’t feel the pain as long. Consuming 10 grams of whey protein before and 10 grams of whey protein following your workout will help reduce symptoms of DOMS, according to a study
in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
Wearing compression garments can help speed up muscle recovery when you’re sore. Try TINTIN weighted compression shorts (which come with gel inserts to heat or cool muscles) or any of this compression gear for post-workout recovery
Many pro athletes swear by this tried and true method and work massages into their weekly training plans. “In prep for Rio, the past four years of my training has included less swimming and more recovery,” says three-time Paralympic medalist Tucker Dupree
. “Massages have made a huge difference there.” Scheduling a bi-weekly or once-monthly deep tissue massage is worth it, and it’s backed by science
Since sore muscles are already compromised with slight damage, it’s important to not keep pushing through the pain with tougher workouts. “Soreness is your body saying, ‘Hey, you broke me a little bit, so let me build back up,’” says Aguillard. So, consider a total rest day if the soreness is intense.
That said, there are benefits to a recovery workout
in lieu of total rest. Light activity can alleviate soreness just as well as a massage, according to research
published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
. Go out for a light 20-minute jog, swim, bike ride, or row session the day after a demanding workout.
Drinking enough water ensures that those nasty toxins trapped in your muscles that make DOMS even worse get flushed out faster and that your muscles are hydrated enough to stay supple. Dehydrated muscles become tight and easily injured, so try to keep them hydrated by drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces of water a day.
Have certain muscles that always feel tight and restricted? Roll them out with a foam roller before you work out to mobilize the muscles, get blood flowing, and keep overuse injuries at bay. “You should foam roll the muscles that get sore often so that you can get full range of motion and build strength in muscles that may be underdeveloped,” says Brooke Ficara, DPT, at Spear Physical Therapy in NYC. Foam rolling is also great post-workout even if it hurts so good.
Consider upgrading your go-to roller for The VYPER, a cutting-edge roller that uses both pressure and vibration to improve circulation and work on tight muscles. The VYPER uses three different speed settings powered by rechargeable lithium ion batteries.
For example, if you have a heavy squat session planned, do a few unilateral bridge exercises
before picking up the weights to warm up the muscles you want to engage. This prevents excessive soreness and also imbalances that result in overuse injuries of more dominant muscles, such as hip flexors or hamstrings.