I ran the Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll half marathon over the weekend. It’s a hilly half marathon. And I didn’t complete my training; in fact, I stopped training about a month prior to the race. Sure, I ran a few times a week, but I didn’t complete my long runs. I did a triathlon the weekend before the race and a tough trail relay three weekends before the race. Not advised.
Long story short, I’m writing this two days later and I still have very sore muscles. But I have things to do and I would like to walk a little more like a normal human and a little less like Frankenstein. I took an Epsom Salt bath post-race and it felt great…until I got out. But now what do I do to help ease these sore muscles?
Luckily, author and physician Dr. Joseph Mercola has some answers in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post, “Decreasing Post-Exertion Muscle Soreness: What’s the Best Way?”
He writes that Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) happens because of “microscopic tears in muscles fibers, releasing chemical irritants that trigger inflammation.” It’s not lactic acid that causes the soreness like so many of us think.
Here are some ways he suggests in the article to help ease sore muscles:
Diet Can Help with to Ease Sore Muscles
“First priority,” Dr. Mercola writes, “Eat fresh, organic, nutritionally dense foods. This gives your body the building blocks to forming strong, resilient, inflammation-resistant tissues.” Try to eat food that is high in good fat, has a moderate amount of protein, is low in carbohydrates and is “very low in sugar.” Click the link to see his other nutrition suggestions and click here to see Dr. Mercola’s nutrition plan.
A Little Exercise Can Help DOMS
Static stretching has been shown to have no benefit to ease sore muscles. “But the active form–dynamic stretching, like lunges, squats, or arm circles–could help prevent soreness and helps improve your power, speed, agility, endurance, flexibility and strength,” writes Dr. Mercola.
Use Proper Rest and Recovery for Muscle Soreness
Don’t jump right back into training hard. You may even need up to seven days of rest and recovery, according to Dr. Mercola. That doesn’t mean laying in bed for a week, though. Dynamic stretching and light activity can help ease sore muscles.
Ice and Heat Soothes Muscles
Use ice or heat, or alternate both. Dr. Mercola suggests cold-water immersion (ice bath) to reduce pain, inflammation and to increase recovery time, but warns that the water can’t be too cold and you shouldn’t stay in it too long. Even a cold pack within 48 hours will help, he says. He also suggests a warm bath with 200-400 grams of Epsom salt for 20 minutes. The sulfur from the salt absorbs through the skin and helps ease muscle pain. “Alternating heat and cold is another method to increase circulation and reduce inflammation,” he writes.
What is EFT, “Earthing” and Acceleration Training?
Dr. Mercola explains it on his site, Mercola.com, that Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is “…simple tapping with the fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on the head and chest while you think about your specific problem–whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc.–and voice positive affirmations.”
Earthing, writes Dr. Mercola, is when you walk barefoot in the sand on the beach, in the water or on dewy grass. The “free electrons in the ground transfer into your body through the soles of your feet” and these are some of the most potent antioxidants known to man, he says. Finally, acceleration training “…involves standing on a vibrating plate to work ALL your muscles and nerves simultaneously.”
Dr. Mercola says this “Whole Body Vibration Training” gets your pituitary gland to make more Human Growth Hormone, thus speeding up muscle recovery.
What Doesn’t Help Muscle Recovery
One thing to definitely avoid when it comes to easing muscle pain and soreness are over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. Try not to take them after a tough workout and definitely don’t take them before. “Taking ibuprofen before a workout to reduce muscle soreness is linked to intestinal leakage and systemic inflammation,” says Dr. Mercola. “Long-term use may lead to intestinal permeability, allowing bacteria and digestive enzymes into your bloodstream, and reduces key nutrient absorption, particularly after exercise.” Aspirin also has never been proven to help with muscle soreness, and it may even interfere with muscle recovery. So just don’t use it.
Other Techniques to Help Ease Sore Muscles
Foam rolling: We’ve written about foam rolling on the 2Toms blog before; it is a great form of self-massage and less expensive than a visit to the spa.
What techniques have you tried that help to ease sore muscles?