While your workouts always leave you feeling refreshed, the muscle soreness afterward can also leave you feeling like a Robaxacet puppet – especially if you’ve just increased the intensity, frequency, or duration of your workout. For times like these, it’s always helpful to have muscle recovery strategies at your disposal.
Below are 10 natural ways to aid muscle recovery and ease muscle tension:
Okay, this one seems obvious, but many of us have a nasty habit of waiting until we feel thirsty to drink water – and if you’re not hydrated properly, your muscles will become stiff and prone to injury. I used to carry a giant bottle of water to work with me, but I found it to be really intimidating, so now I focus on drinking a glass of water every hour (with a hardcore replenish after each workout).
2. Lemon towel
Lemons are a natural anti-inflammatory (and smell amazing too). Mix two tablespoons of honey with the juice from three lemons and microwave for 30 seconds (an acceptable use for a microwave!). Dip a towel into the mixture and apply to sore areas to help your muscle recovery along.
3. Epsom salts
Epsom salts are made of magnesium sulfate: Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, and as a salt they help reduce tissue swelling. Dissolve one or two cups of Epsom salts into warm bath water and soak for 15 minutes or until the water has cooled.
4. Ginger supplements
According to researchers at Georgia College and State University, ginger may help reduce muscle soreness: A change was noticed within 11 days of using two grams of ground ginger daily.
5. Drink tart cherry juice
Studies suggest tart cherries may be more effective than aspirin at relieving pain and reducing inflammation, thanks to the antioxidant anthocyanins, which can help minimize swelling in sore muscles. Drink about an ounce of cherry concentrate right before your workout – or, if cherries aren’t your thang, enjoy other foods that are rich in antioxidants like quinoa, kale and blueberries.
6. Heat therapy
Heat therapy increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to sore muscles while suppressing the pain signals being sent to your brain. Apply some form of heat – hot water bottle, heating pad, or a hot towel – to sore areas.
7. Cool with ice
With pain comes inflammation – and ice is the best natural remedy. It also acts as an anesthetic, essentially numbing the effected area and giving you a muscle recovery breather.
Here’s the thing about muscle pain: It limits your movement, which ironically makes the pain even worse. (Oy to the vey.) Make sure to get your stretch on as often as possible – especially after sitting for extended periods of time or before an intense workout. Once you’ve incorporated more stretching into your day, muscle recovery will be a snap.
You know how they say the best thing you can do to cure a hangover is to drink what caused the hangover? A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found the same is true for exercise: They compared the effects of massage or exercise to relieve muscle soreness, and found exercise to be just as effective.
10. Rest up
Especially after trying an intense workout you’re not used to, it’s best not to overdo it: If you sense an injury coming on, rest up before taking the plunge again. Listen to your body, and it’ll take care of the rest (no pun intended).