How to Deal With Muscle Soreness After Running

It's very common for runners to experience muscle soreness or stiffness 24 to 48 hours after running or other types of exercise, especially if you're new to running or have made an increase in distance or intensity. This delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) will go away on its own after a few days, but here are some tips for dealing with it in the meantime.

Do Some Light Post-Run Stretching

After your runs, especially hard runs or races, do 10 minutes of static stretching. Focus on your quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips, as well as anything that felt tight during the run. Here are some essential post-run stretches.

Give Ice a Chance

Many professional runners use ice baths to reduce soreness after runs. Even swimming in cold water can help speed up your recovery. If you can't tolerate an ice bath, use ice packs on sore areas. Just don't overdo it—you don't need to ice any body parts for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

Replenish Carbs and Protein

After running, especially a long run, you want to replenish energy as quickly as possible. Studies have shown that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (stored glucose) stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. If you eat soon after your workout, you can minimize muscle stiffness and soreness.

A good rule of thumb for post-run food is a ratio of 1 gram of protein to 3 grams of carbs. Nutrition bars, such as Clif bars, Kind bars, or Power bars, are convenient, healthy options. Look for bars that have the 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Other examples of quick nutrient replacement would be a bagel with peanut butter, a protein shake, a banana and yogurt, a fruit and yogurt smoothie.

If you feel like you can't stomach solid food immediately after a run, try drinking some chocolate milk. Chocolate milk provides plenty of protein, carbohydrates and B vitamins making it a great recovery drink.

Keep Moving

Don't take off from exercise completely—that may actually make your recovery longer. Sitting for long periods of time can especially lead to more leg stiffness and discomfort. Active recovery works best, so try going for a brisk walk or easy bike ride to get your blood flowing.

Just make sure you avoid vigorous activity until your soreness has subsided. If you do need to sit for most of the day, try to get up periodically and move your legs.

Don't Forget to Warm Up

Don't forget to do a 5 to 10-minute warm-up before your next run or workout. Try some warm-up exercises before you get started.  If your muscles are still sore after your warm-up, do some easy stretching.

Ease into your run. You may feel some tightness when you first start running, but it should dissipate as you continue. If your soreness doesn't improve or gets worse as you keep running, stop your run and do some easy cross-training instead (assuming it's pain-free).

Practice Yoga

Yoga is a safe and relaxing activity to do the day after a hard workout or race, and it may help reduce DOMS. Keep it on the easy side. You can work yourself through several different poses, but don't do a long, intense yoga class.

Try Massage

Some research has shown that massage can help ease DOMS, so you can go for a sports massage. If you don't have the time or money for professional massages, do some gentle massage with your hands or a massage tool such as a foam roller or stick.

Don't Ignore Lingering Pain

If your pain lasts (or gets worse) longer than about seven days, make sure you check in with your healthcare professional. You may have an injury that requires some physical therapy or other treatment.

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