Today you're feeling a little crampy, sore and inflexible. Thanks to this weekend's 5K, the spontaneous hike with a friend or your increasing appetite for kettlebell workouts, your body is feeling it! Muscle soreness can last up to three days, but can be encouraged to dissipate with active recovery exercises and a good diet. Injury, however, is long lasting and can be felt as slightly as a twinge to as intensely as stab.
First, eliminate the possibility of an injury by going through this checklist:
- Did you feel it happen? If you can pinpoint the moment when you first began feeling discomfort, you probably have an injury.
- Does it hurt every time? If you feel pain or restricted motion whenever you bend your knee or add weight to an exercise, you could have tendonitis, or an overuse injury.
- Is the pain happening while you're working out? Usually those first few minutes of warming up or grinding out a workout are pretty tough when you're sore, but eventually you get warm enough to smooth out the pain. If the pain continues or gets worse, you're looking at a potential injury.
- Is the pain joint-specific? If the pain is in the knee, ankle, hip or anywhere adjacent to a joint, you could have an injury. Soreness tends to linger more in the long muscle fibers versus ligaments and other joint connectors.
- Improvement only happens with rest. Soreness can be conquered by active recovery, stretching and hydration, whereas injuries need rest and sometimes ice or heat to feel better.
Those questions should give you a pretty good starting point. Sometimes the most difficult injuries to identify are those caused by overuse or overtraining. It's something you feel like you should push through instead of succumb to. You don't have to be a hero! If you are dealing with an injury here's what you need to do next:
RICE: Rest, ice, compression and elevation. These four treatments combined equal the go-to home remedy for minor injuries. It gives you a head start on the recovery process while you wait for your doctor's appointment.
What's up, doc? Make an appointment with an orthopedic office, where your strains, sprains and broken bones can be assessed, treated and observed during recovery. Keep this appointment for the first 48 hours following the onset of pain. Cancel it later if you feel your home remedy has set you up for a full recovery. If the pain you feel, though, is something that you've been dealing with for a while, bite the bullet and talk to your doctor.
Following a tough workout or series of workouts, you feel sore and probably tired. It's important to listen to your body. If you still want to work out, you can. You don't have to skip a day. There are plenty of active recovery workouts and exercises you can do. First, it's important to understand how the muscles get sore and that occasional soreness is a good thing!
When you exercise, especially with resistance training, your muscles experience micro-tears within the fibers. This is normal. Then, your body repairs those tears and becomes stronger. The next time you do the same exercise, you won't feel as sore. If you add more weight, more reps or additional exercises to that muscle group, you experience the same soreness again. The body is very adaptable. (via Built Lean)
>> Read more: What is DOMS? (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
Active Recovery Workouts:
- Swimming: Float your way to relief without putting added resistance on the muscles.
- Yoga: Without trying to touch your toes to your nose, go through a sequence that gets the blood flowing without over-stretching the muscles.
- Cycling: As long as you're not sore from cycling, hop on a bike and get the legs warmed up and the heart pumping with a low aerobic set.
- Core Work: If the legs or arms are like Jell-O today, try some crunches or yoga-based core work. Try the Yoga for a Flat Belly Flow workout here.
- Steady State Cardio: It could be a long walk with the dog, a fast pace on the treadmill or bike, a solid jog or a Zumba class, but the goal to keep the cardio levels low and controlled. Go for 40 to 60 minutes here.