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Five ways to soothe sore muscles

Ashleigh Went

I personally don’t mind a touch of muscle soreness. It’s a natural reminder that you’ve been pushing yourself and working your muscles. However, when you’re struggling to walk down the stairs or even sit on the toilet, it can be a bit of an issue. This is especially true if you’re just starting a new program or activity, and it’s important that you don’t let it turn you off.

Here are five tricks I use to combat muscle soreness and stop it interfering with my training and my life:

Foam rolling

A foam roller is basically a foam cylinder that you roll your muscles on to help release tension. It’s a bit like giving yourself a nice, firm massage. You can pick these up from sports stores, your physiotherapist, or I’ve event spotted them at Target.

Foam Rollers

To use a foam roller, position it under your body and, using the weight of your body, roll it down the length of your muscle using even pressure. If you need help, a physio or PT can show you the right way to position yourself, but my advice would be to do whatever feels good! This is not the time to try and look sexy, just do whatever works for you.

Think of this one as less of a remedy and more of a maintenance strategy. I try and do it a couple of times a week, usually after a big run or weights session. If you’re looking to step it up a notch or really target a specific area, try using a squash ball or studded massage ball – I use one to release tight muscles in my hips and it works a charm.

Massage

A remedial or sports massage is a great way to relieve tension in the body. It can help reduce inflammation and pain and assist muscle recovery. Not to mention, it’s a great way to reward yourself for all your hard work.

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Many a gym bunny has flocked to Foot and Thai in Belconnen for their traditional Thai massages that give you that “hurts so good” feeling. If you’re not on the Northside, check out our recommendations here.

If you’re injured or looking for a something specifically targeted towards sport, there are plenty of physiotherapists around Canberra who offer sports massage. I see Suzie Goodall at Powerhouse Physio who is amazing at releasing tension and stress.

Salt baths

Soaking in Epsom salts has long been used to relax muscles, and for very good reason. The chemical name for this little miracle is magnesium sulphate. A magnesium deficiency can really impede your body’s ability to repair its muscles, so it’s important to top yourself up every now and then. Luckily, magnesium can be absorbed through your skin and into your blood stream, so a salt bath is a great way to speed up muscle recovery and help keep your body healthy.

Bath Soak

What I know for sure is that I run myself a salt bath weekly and it leaves me with relaxed muscles, less tension, healthy skin and a clear mind. While I’ve tried Epsom salts in the past, I swear by the Byron Bay Healthy Salt Co. Magnesium bath soak with Himalayan crystal salt, available at Mountain Creek Wholefoods in Griffith. With essential oils to help you de-stress, it’s a super indulgent and effective way to reduce inflammation and muscle pain. I soak for 20-30 minutes and emerge refreshed and rejuvenated. Seeing as you’re soaking away anyway, why not add some candles and a good book and make it a treat for your body and soul.

Hot and cold water immersion/contrast therapy

Professional athletes often use plunge pools or ice baths to help with muscle recovery. If you’ve pushed yourself really hard, why not take yourself to the Australian Institute of Sport and give their plunge pool and spa a try? The contrast of hot and cold enhances recovery by increasing blood flow, helping your body to pump much needed nutrients to your fatigued muscles. The AIS recommends 30-60 seconds in cold water followed by 3-4 minutes in warm water, repeated 3 times.

For a DIY method, alternate between steamy hot and icy cold water in your shower at home. Be warned, neither of these methods are for the faint hearted: they’re not exactly pleasant, but they are effective.

Protein

It’s very simple: protein builds muscle. Our resident nutrition guru Kate Freeman has documented the many benefits of this macronutrient that is essential for building muscle, controlling appetite and maintaining a healthy weight.

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There are a bunch of natural foods that contain protein, and as Kate explains, some are better than others. The best choices are:

  • Meat, fish and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Nuts and seeds.

You can also purchase protein powder in various forms – I personally use Amazonia Raw Protein (also from Mountain Creek Wholefoods) which is made from a sprouted protein blend with greens, primarily because dairy based proteins don’t agree with my stomach.

It’s ideal to have some protein within about half an hour of exercise to reap the greatest benefits.

So there you have it — five simple remedies for muscle soreness. If you’re finding that you’re experiencing a severe level of pain, or that it’s persistent, it’s probably worth checking in with a health professional.

To finish up, here’s a recipe for a smoothie that I often have after a big workout. It’s full of nutrients that will help speed up recovery like magnesium, potassium and zinc, plus fibre to keep you full — not to mention that it tastes amazing. I don’t drink cows milk so I’ve swapped in almond milk, but feel free to sub in whatever milk you choose.

Choc banana walnut smoothie

ChocBanWalSmoothie

Ingredients

1 banana, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder

¼ cup oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder

1 small handful of walnuts

1 cup almond milk

Method

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Easy!

Feature images courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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Ashleigh Went

HerCanberra ACTIVE Editor Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. As someone who loves champagne and cheese almost as she loves a sweaty workout, she's all about living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She can usually be found with her nose in a book, planning her next adventure, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue. More about the Author