Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a fact of life for almost all athletes. DOMS is often the result of overtraining or damage to muscles, resulting in muscle exhaustion. The majority of athletes face it at some point, often after changes in their training plans.
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The best way to fix muscle soreness after intense training is with slow progression, good form, concentric exercises and eating plenty of protein. But this is not always possible in the real world, where meets and races are around the corner and your competitors are getting stronger by the day.
As they say, if you cannot beat them, join them. If you have to make changes that result in intense soreness or DOMS, try one or more of these potential fixes to alleviate the pain.
1. Take Supplements
Your diet plays a direct role in the rate at which your body can recover from strenuous workouts. If you are training hard on a regular basis, taking supplements may help you heal faster. Over-the-counter muscle relaxers can help, but there are also more natural approaches.
Protein is crucial for decreasing muscle damage and soreness after a workout. Many athletes also take creatine to decrease the length of time they have to tolerate DOMS. Omega 3s are also said to play a role in keeping joints and muscles healthy after difficult workouts.
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2. Take an Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salts are primarily composed of magnesium, a natural and gentle muscle relaxant. Add one to two cups of Epsom salts to a warm—not hot—bath and soak in it for at least 10 minutes.
Folklore says that you absorb magnesium through your skin after it dissolves in the hot water. But even if that does not occur, relaxation helps your body repair itself faster.
3. Use a Foam Roller
Rolling on a foam cylinder employs self-myofascial release, which is like targeted self-massage. The technique helps prevent damage and scarring to connective tissue between the muscles.
Foam rolling hurts, especially if you are already sore from training. Rolling for the first time can be particularly painful.
Look for specific exercises to target problem areas, and just keep going. You will soon be able to distinguish between normal pain and the kind of pain that results in relief for sore muscles.
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4. Get Extra Rest
Rest is important because it gives your body time to repair potential damage done to your muscles or joints.
Rest means spreading your workouts out so that you get at least 24 hours off between training sessions. Do not go to the gym at 7 at night and then again at 7 in the next morning. Even if your high school coach advocated that kind of training, it is not sustainable or safe over long periods of time.
However, rest also means getting enough sleep. Much muscle recovery happens while you are sleeping. Eight hours of sleep is a requirement for athletes with muscle soreness. Do not be afraid to take a nap either.
DOMS can make you wonder whether it would hurt less to walk down the stairs or simply throw yourself down. But if you take care of your body before and after workouts, you can relieve or at least reduce the amount of time you spend in pain.