Seven Tips to Relieve Muscle Soreness After a Run
All Runners Experience Soreness at One Point or Another
Whether you just started running recently or you've been running for decades, you are probably familiar with the muscle soreness that often accompanies running.
Some people encounter this muscle pain, because they haven't run before or it's just plain been a while since they last went running. If your muscles aren't used to running, they're going to let you know that you're pushing them past the limit that they have become comfortable with.
Even seasoned runners will experience soreness after a particularly long run or a run on more difficult terrain than they are used to. You will definitely notice a difference in your post-run experience if you are accustomed to running on flat terrain and you decide to challenge yourself by running up a steep hill.
Even your shoes can play a huge role in how you feel after a run. Whether your shoes have become too worn out or you just got a new pair that isn't quite working for you, this can lead to some major repercussions after a run.
Soreness is nothing to be ashamed of, but that doesn't mean that it's something that runners enjoy. That's why it is valuable to have a few tricks up your sleeve to minimize muscle soreness to make your experience as a runner more enjoyable.
Most of these tips--particularly those involving diet and nutrition- can be applied throughout the day and are even more beneficial when utilized regularly rather than just in short spurts. Obviously you won't spend much time sleeping throughout the day, but it is important to get a good night's rest on a consistent basis.
Of course something is better than nothing, so even if you aren't following these tips on a regular basis, they are definitely still useful right after a run.
1. Keep Yourself Hydrated
Staying hydrated is crucial to having a quick recovery from a run. In fact, according to http://water.usgs.gov/edu/propertyyou.html our muscles are 79% water.
When you run without upping your intake of water and electrolytes, your muscles have a harder time recovering and this leads to increased soreness for longer periods of time.
The best thing you can do for your muscles is stay hydrated all the time. It is a common rule of thumb that if you want to know the average amount of water your body needs, you should divide your weight by two and that's how many ounces you need to drink.
For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you would divide that by two and discover that you should be drinking 75 ounces of water a day.
Aside from just drinking water, you want to replenish your electrolytes, because electrolyte levels become depleted during a strenuous workout, and maintaining proper electrolyte levels is key to staying hydrated.
If you are a fan of Gatorade, Powerade, or Propel, those are some great options. If you prefer to go the more natural route, coconut water is a fantastic source of electrolytes.
Just remember that these drinks are also high in sugar, so it's not wise to drink them on a regular basis if you aren't exercising. Too much sugar can be hard on the pancreas if you aren't exercising enough to use it quickly.
What is your favorite drink for optimal hydration?
2. Eat Lean Protein
Eating plenty of protein will also aid in your recovery after a run. In fact, the main purpose protein serves in your body is to repair damaged tissues.
Knowing that, it's probably easy to see why including protein in your diet is important for reducing and even preventing muscle soreness.
There are lots of quick and easy sources of protein. Some popular favorites for runners are tuna, peanut butter, cottage cheese, and eggs. Not only are these foods quick and convenient to eat, but they give your muscles a good dose of protein to aid in healing.
Chicken and turkey are great options if you have a little more time on your hands for preparation.
If you are vegan, quinoa, lentils, legumes, and whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat pasta can give you the protein that you need. Also, let's not forget the aforementioned peanut butter which is a favorite for vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters alike.
Keep in mind that many high protein foods come with their own set of drawbacks as far as heart health goes. For example, eating a large steak will give you protein, but at what cost compared to an egg or a serving of lentil soup?
Protein Per Serving of Popular Foods for Athletes
Protein Per Serving
Whole Wheat Spaghetti
1 Cup (uncooked)
1 Cup (small curd unpacked)
3. Eat Foods that Will Reduce Inflammation
You're probably already familiar with the fact that inflammation can cause all kinds of ailments in your body. Muscle soreness is one of those pesky problems that is very common among runners.
Hippocrates has been quoted as saying, "Let food by thy medicine and let medicine be thy food." In this case, following the advice of your mom to eat your fruits and vegetables can do a lot to decrease the amount of inflammation and muscle soreness that you experience in conjunction with running. Whole grain foods are also a great way to go if you are trying to reduce inflammation in your body.
Of course there are plenty of over the counter medicines that you can easily get to reduce inflammation, but overtime the use of these medicines can take a toll on your body, so Hippocrates probably knew what he was talking about when he shared those famous words of wisdom.
Trying to avoid muscle soreness? Have a cucumber or some fresh berries. You can even make your snack complete by adding a slice of whole grain bread.
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
4. Get a Good Night's Rest
This bit of advice might seem almost too simple to worry about, but in reality most people aren't getting as much sleep as they need, and your sleep time plays a big role in muscle repair.
While your mind is relaxing, your body is busy repairing muscles that may have been damaged throughout the day.
The average athlete should get at least 8 hours of sleep for proper recovery, and could even benefit from short naps during the day to supplement their nighttime sleep.
There are fantastic details regarding athletes and sleep habits provided at http://www.gssiweb.org/Article/sse-113-sleep-and-the-elite-athlete.
How Much Sleep Do You Get a Night?
5. Give Your Muscles a Good Stretch
Aside from making sure that your body is getting the hydration and nutrients that it needs, stretching is probably the next most important thing you can do to reduce muscle soreness.
Most people have come to agree that rather than stretching before running, you want to get a little bit of a warm-up walk or light run in before stretching.
Even more crucial is making sure that you stretch after you run.
If you have the time, do some yoga or Pilates after you run. These types of exercises are fantastic for stretching your muscles and strengthening them at the same time. You will be amazed with the results, and your body will thank you.
6. Never Underestimate the Power of RICE to Reduce Swelling
For those of you who have never heard this acronym before, RICE is a commonly used abbreviation for a few simple steps to help with sore muscles. This is particularly useful where there is noticeable swelling involved.
- Rest-We already talked about getting plenty of sleep, but sometimes it is important to just give that muscle a rest from the work that it has been doing recently.
- Ice-An ice pack can also help to reduce swelling and pain.
- Compression-Whether you where compression socks or just wrap the area in a bandage, compression is a useful tool for keeping swelling to a minimum when you are dealing with a sore muscle
- Elevate-Elevating an arm or leg can also do a lot to reduce swelling
7. Get a Massage or Use a Foam Roller
Most people know that getting a massage is a fantastic way to help muscles heal. It's true that a massage can be painful when your muscles are sore, but the end results are well worth it.
If you don't have the time or money for a massage, a foam roller is a great option. You can buy them at your department store in the athletics department for around $20, and you can use them over and over again rather than paying for a massage every time you experience muscle pain.
Just like a massage, using a foam roller is going to hurt initially, but your muscles will be happy when you are done.