You know as soon as you walk away from a killer spinning class that you're going to feel it the next day. Muscle pain doesn't discriminate: Both seasoned athletes and weekend warriors can experience stiff and achy muscles after a hard workout. Here's help.
Remember high school gym class when stretching was a preparation for the day's activity? Bad idea. Stretching cold muscles can lead to soreness, says Mike Adesso, a certified athletic trainer and physical therapist at University Sports Medicine in Buffalo, New York. He recommends "dynamic stretches," which mimic the movements you're about to do. For example, if you're a golfer, rotate your upper body from side to side while holding an exercise ball or some light hand-weights to warm up your spine and core. If you're a jogger, walk briskly for a few minutes.
The time to stretch is after the workout is over, says Mike Huff, coordinator of Duke Sports Performance Program in Durham, North Carolina. "People get done with a workout and they think that's it," says Huff. "If they would only take time to do some good stretching it would alleviate a lot of the aches and pain the next day." Don't think of stretching as the end of one workout -- think of it as the beginning of the next one.
Soreness usually sets in 24 hours after a workout, and the inflammation usually peaks around 48 hours. Ibuprofen does a good job of easing the discomfort. Take right after a gonzo workout and continue until soreness disappears. Follow package directions for dosing.
Muscle spasms and soreness often occur because your muscles do not have enough fluid. You should drink water before, during, and after exercise.
If you have time, book an hourlong massage for yourself. It will go a long way to get the ache out. No time for one? Try The Original Body Stick, a self-massage device that works much the same way ($40, thestick.com).
If the pain isn't too bad, do some light exercise. "The best thing to do is the same exercise that made you sore but using less weight or not as many reps," says Mike Huff, coordinator of Duke Sports Performance Program in Durham, North Carolina.