With summer’s arrival, many of us take our routines outside. Whether it is long road trips to the cottage, participating in a family volleyball game, hauling camping paraphernalia, or completing a triathlon, if your body isn’t used to it, these activities can leave you with a reminder the next day. To get the most out of summer, here are 6 Steps to reduce muscle aches caused by underuse or injury:
1. “No pain, no gain”? Since many people are willing to endure a certain degree of discomfort for sport, tissue damage must sometimes be extensive in order for us to stop. Injury/inflammation at any level requires attention and resting the area to avoid cumulative repercussions. Preparing the body with “active warmup, rather than static stretching,” recognizing your current limits, adjusting training as you increase activity level, and stretching muscles afterward to cool down lessens potential of injury.
2. Drink more water. A common cause of pain is dehydration. You must have enough fluid to keep the body cool, blood moving, muscle cells receptive, ligaments/tendons relaxed, and to flush toxic byproducts that increase during exercise. Drink plenty of water during physical activity before you feel thirsty (thirst means you are already dehydrated); avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol on hot days; and bring easily-accessed water while travelling.
3. Get up and move. If you’re taking a long drive or flight, a stretching/standing break every hour is imperative to avoid getting tight muscles and joints as hip flexors, hamstrings and low back muscles shorten when sitting. Breathe deeply as you stretch to help blood circulate back into constricted areas. And don’t forget to keep moving your neck, shoulders and head throughout your travel time.
4. Be posture perfect. When kicking a soccer ball or taking a bike ride for the first time this season, focus on correcting posture and using core (abdominal) muscles to put less stress on your back. Concentrating on proper form (no matter how experienced you feel you are) not only reduces injury, it greatly improves performance. If traveling, sit upright in your seat, and be sure that when lifting bags, holding children and reaching for items, you plant feet flat for support and bend from the knees.
5. Nourish muscles. If you push the edge during exercise, using all available energy, your muscle glycogen is depleted and must be replenished. Nutritional support repairs cells, strengthens tissue and reduces inflammation. Increase whole grains, omega-3 fats and brightly coloured vegetables, and avoid white flour, sugar, refined fats and alcohol that increase oxidation and inflammation.
6. Get plant relief. When you’ve overextended yourself and feel pain, try a topical cream with Arnica, an herb called "tumbler's cure all," reflecting its ability to heal sprains and sore muscles. Boswellia is a medicinal tree resin known to affect enzymes including COX-2 that contribute to inflammation, reducing pain. Devil’s Claw, a claw-like root commonly used for pain relief, also acts as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory.