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Wellness Wednesday: Best Methods for Relieving Muscle Soreness

Before we get into this week’s lesson, I want to briefly touch on a question I’m often asked by people who have started an workout program but aren’t happy with the results on the scale: I’m working hard at the gym and eating right but why isn’t the number on the scale dropping? Healthy muscle is highly metabolic when used. This is why resistance training with body weight or external weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells is a great way to use up body fat stores and keep them from returning.   

Contrary to what many believe, muscle DOES NOT weigh more than fat but it IS denser. Many people mistake not losing weight on the scale for not losing fat.  

When you start weight training programs, the goal is to develop stronger, denser muscle that stabilizes and moves the skeletal system more efficiently.

If you gain five pounds of muscle and lose five pounds of fat over the course of several months, the net change on the scale is going to be zero. The look and feel of your body will be interestingly different though.

Don’t be discouraged if you weigh the same but are needing to buy new pants so yours won't continue to fall off in public. This can be highly motivating for you once you accept the fact the number on the scale that doesn’t seem to be budging can be a good thing.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s jump into this week’s topic. By now you’ve probably developed some soreness from moving a little bit more. It can happen from extending your walk to doing one more set of kettlebell swings or push-ups on the park bench.

It’s alright and it’s totally normal. What we don’t want is overwhelming soreness or even pain.

This week’s lesson is on how to handle soreness like an adult.

Below, I have shared three tips that you can use to decrease soreness related to exercise:

  • Stop relying on pills. Our society has become dependent on over-the-counter and illegal pain pills for the smallest of problems. Every time you have a headache, you should not be taking Excedrin. Instead, you should be looking for the source of the headache. The same goes for exercise-induced soreness. Don’t take naproxen or ibuprofen if you have general muscle fatigue or soreness. Save it for the time you slip on ice and twist your ankle. Besides, NSAIDS aren’t good for your stomach. Trust me, I do know people who take anti-inflammatories before and after every workout. This is defeating the purpose. Be an educated adult or slow down and decrease your exercise level. Our muscles need eustress and to break homeostasis in order to change.
  • Take an Epsom salt bath. Grandma knew what was right. Magnesium is used in over 300 processes for our body to function optimally, including stress relief and decreasing muscle tension, but many of us are magnesium-deficient. In an Epsom salt bath, magnesium is absorbed transdermally (through the skin) and is great at helping us relax.
  • Get a professional massage or purchase a foam roller (or other self-massage tool). A massage helps relax tight tissue and has been proven to enhance the parasympathetic nervous system to allow us to relax from human tough or simulated deep touch in the muscle tissue and other pressure receptors of the skin and muscle tissue. There are several massage therapists around the area and gyms such as mine that can show you inexpensive ways to take care of your own aching tight muscles with foam rollers and other tools. I have plenty of videos here on how to work on yourself. Also, if you’re interested in purchasing a foam roller or other therapy tools, check out the website for Rogue Fitness in Columbus, Ohio and click on “Mobility.”

These three tips will help you decrease post-workout or movement soreness but, remember muscle soreness is different from PAIN. If you are experiencing PAIN, especially in the joints or spine, please contact a doctor or other professional. 

- Joe Daniels is the owner of SwingThis Kettlebell and Strength Studio in Latonia. Questions for Joe? E-mail him at [email protected].

Bored with bodybuilding after reaching the national level in 2009, Joe Daniels opened SwingThis Kettlebell and Strength. From becoming an IKFF Coach operating in an 800 sq. ft. studio, the benefits of a minimal yet highly effective approach to fitness has grown to a 5,500 sq. ft. functional training facility within four years. 

Focusing on injury prevention, competitive kettlebell sport training and stress relief, SwingThis Kettlebell and Strength has hosted seminars and trained hands-on with some of the top athletes and coaches of the kettlebell world. Their philosophy has remained the same: You have to enjoy your training at all stages. Live your life. Your training should make your life outside that time more enjoyable and fulfilling.

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