Few aspects of exercise turns those who would be fit and healthy back into couch potatoes faster than intense or never-ending muscle pain. Pain doesn’t just turn exercise into a chore we’d rather not face, it can have real impacts on our performance at work, home, and during hobbies–and of course, the inflammation which causes muscle pain shouldn’t be left unattended. Whether you see bigger problems during your workouts or in the hours or days following, these seven tips should see you in the gym longer, more often, with less pain and more gain to show for it.
Tricks for Fighting Off Muscle Pain
Better rest. Often, the simplest solution to ongoing muscle pain is the simplest: rest more, and rest better. Make sure that you’re getting your solid 8 hours of sleep each night, especially after a workout day, and also be certain to take the occasional low-effort day or gym-free week to give your body time to recover fully. A lack of satisfactory rest quickly results in lower gains, more pain, and bad moods.
Beetroot juice. The natural sulfates contained in beets show a remarkable effect on muscle pain during and after training, studies find. Not only will you be able to go longer, you’ll suffer less for the effort (aside from the dubious pleasure of consuming a glassful of beetroot juice).
Coffee. Coffee, and indeed any source of caffeine, shows a remarkable reduction in muscle pain when consumed before training. You may also see miniscule performance gains, if you’re not already consuming caffeine—just don’t overdo it, and don’t take in a bunch of sugar you don’t need.
NSAIDs. Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs work against inflammation—which means they’ll bring your muscles back from their painful state faster than sitting around. If you want to reduce inflammation quickly without medication, there are a few plants available as teas which offer similar effects.
Hydration. Sometimes, excessive muscle pain stems from a simple problem of dehydration. Make sure you’re drinking plenty to support your body’s exertions, or you’ll find yourself facing cramps, muscle pain, joint aches, blurred vision, headaches, and who knows what else. And make sure you’re matching your water intake with electrolyte intake, or you’ll see many of the same symptoms for different reasons.
Massage. Very few tricks work as effectively for escaping muscle pain as a deep tissue massage. If you’re thinking, ‘But I don’t have anyone to massage me!”, don’t worry. You can achieve very similar results with a simple self-applied massage, using any number of tools on the market—or the old althlete’s stand-by, the tennis ball. Work your muscles hard and long, and make sure to relax afterward.
Ice baths. Heat may feel better immediately, but submerging overworked muscles in cold water leads to quicker recovery overall.