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Do This After Exercise to Reduce Pain

Flexpower Fitness - Before you get moving, you might have some questions. We're here to do what we can to help.

There are already a few things you can do before you exercise to help minimize your chance for injury or reduce the intensity of DOMS (that’s “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness”), from what you eat to the kinds of stretches you do. We then tried to determine if there were things you could do in the middle of a workout to actually thwart eventual soreness (quick answer: not much, but a few things might help).

So you can guess where we’re going here.

As the UK’s National Health Service explains, “There is some evidence that regular static stretching outside periods of exercise may increase power and speed, and reduce injury. The best time to stretch is when the muscles are warm and pliable. This could be during a yoga or pilates class, or just after exercising.”

The cool down is a vital part of any strenuous activity, and while nothing can completely prevent pain or soreness, a proper post-exercise regime can help you avoid injury and generally keep you feeling better.

“As long as you’re trying new types of exercises and continually amping up the intensity of your workouts, you’ll probably experience some soreness, even if you stretch,” says Certified Personal Trainer and writer Jenessa Connor. “More challenging or unfamiliar workouts tend to cause micro-tears in our muscle fibers, which cause soreness. Over time, the body repairs the micro-tears and our muscles become stronger and potentially bigger.”

How to Cool Down

Two men stretching

Static stretching is OK, but to truly maximize your recovery, you’ll want to consider what’s known as self-myofascial release, or SMR.

“I would definitely recommend incorporating some self-myofascial release into your cool down,” says Connor. “There are so many different tools out there, but you can get a lot done with a basic foam roller and a tennis ball. The general idea is to place the roller or ball under your muscle and use your body weight to massage areas that feel tight or tender. Spending a couple of minutes on each section of your body can help relax the muscles and may help with soreness later on.”

Connor also suggests that including SMR as part of a holistic cool down is ideal – like, say, incorporating something like soothing bath salts. “Hot baths – or cold soaks – can certainly be a part of your recovery process, but I think you’ll have better results pairing those more passive activities with modalities like stretching and SMR.”

Know Your Limits

Man lifting weights looking in the mirror

While these techniques can help reduce the severity of soreness or the longevity of discomfort, it’s always a good idea to know your limits…and listen to your body.

“If you’re struggling to walk, climb stairs, or just function as a human in the world in the days following a workout, you probably pushed yourself way too hard,” says Connor. “Yes, make sure to stretch, but also work with a fitness pro to make sure your workouts are appropriate for your experience and fitness level.”

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