There are a lot of macho slogans people like to live by when it comes to working out. Phrases like “take no days off” and “no pain, no gain” tend to give the illusion that lifting weights is a battle—one that comes with no small amount of discomfort. Because of this perception, it can be hard for the everyday person to find the line between healthy soreness and physical pain. Take note, there’s a difference:
- Pain signals that something is hurt or overworked, or that you’ve pushed your body too far past its limitations in pursuit of results.
- Discomfort and soreness are your body’s resistance to working out, not a physical failure as the result of it.
Pushing against resistance is okay, so long as it doesn’t cross the line into injury territory. Knowing how to find this line is the difference between a healthy workout and a harmful one. It all starts by listening to your body and addressing its needs.
Inflammation is one of the biggest contributors to soreness and, often, pain after working out. It occurs when an overworked part of the body becomes irritated, hot and red as a response to an excess of white blood cells. Simply put: the body kicks into high gear and tries to defend itself against attack, but because there’s no foreign body attacking you, your body attacks itself, causing inflammation.
Inflammation often occurs around joints, where friction may be present during your workout. Knees, heels, elbows and shoulders are all common areas for inflammation to take hold. In fact, you’re probably familiar with many inflammation-related conditions (also known broadly as Tendonitis):
- Golfer’s Elbow
- Tennis Elbow
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Swimmer’s Shoulder
- Patellar Tendonitis
While they broadly occur as the result of aerobic exercises, inflammation conditions can also creep up in anaerobic exercises, such as lifting weights. The repetitive motion and general resistance of weights can put significant strain on tendons and joints, resulting in inflammation.
How to combat inflammation after working out
There are many tried and true methods and natural remedies to help soothe inflammation after a workout:
- RICE is a method used for targeted relief from inflammation. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. These factors promote blood flow and reduce swelling at sites of inflammation, promoting quicker relief and better healing.
- Antioxidants and proteins will quickly go to work to attack inflammation. Mix yourself up a protein smoothie rich in leafy greens or berries if your joints are inflamed.
- Oils and fatty acids are able to deliver anti-inflammation relief as well. Hemp oil, eucalyptus oil and Omega-3s can offer relief in topical capacities, as well as when ingested in supplement form.
The key to combating inflammation is a combination of addressing the actual site of swelling, as well as your body’s overall response to your workout. Combining the RICE method with an antioxidant-rich smoothie, for example, is a great way to help your body recover as a whole.
Making supplements part of your pre- and post-workout
Many avid weightlifters and athletes have pre- and post-workout regimens. Not only does this help them get into the right mindset, it also encourages them to take care of themselves before and after strenuous exercise. For many of these athletes—especially those who know they’re prone to inflammation—natural supplements are a core part of both routines.
If inflammation is holding you back or contributing to post-workout pain, it’s a smart idea to incorporate inflammation-targeting natural supplements into your exercise regimen. Some great examples include:
- Supplements with Glucosamine, to improve joint health
- Supplements high in Omega-3 essential fatty acids
- A Turmeric supplement, to control inflammatory responses
When taken as part of a pre-workout approach, many natural supplements can limit the overall amount of inflammation that takes place. Likewise, when incorporated post-workout, these same supplements could have exceptional benefits as your body goes into recovery mode. Each person responds differently.
Get those gains without the pain!
Inflammation is enough to hold anyone back at the gym. It’s hard to see the results you’re striving for if you have to hold yourself back or worse, take time off due to inflammation or injury. To stay the course and get results, make sure you’re listening to your body and giving it what it needs to combat inflammation.
It’s okay to internalize slogans like “your workout is my warm-up” and embrace the macho attitude of the gym—just make sure you’re putting as much stock in your recovery as you are in your exercise.