Dealing with muscle soreness when returning to jogging
August 1, 2013 9:19 PM   Subscribe

I have just ramped up my exercise a little, adding some intermittent jogging to my long walks (I'm every other day, or every third day). It has been several years since I did any sort of running more than an occasional dash to catch the bus, and my quadriceps are sore. Searching online, I have found advice that ranges from "do not do any more exercise until your muscles are no longer sore" to "power through no matter what!" MeFi, what should I do to mitigate muscle soreness and keep myself in good shape so I can keep exercising?
posted by ocherdraco to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Make sure you are stretching after running (before you get too cold). Get a foam roller and roll out your quads (and anything else that feels sore or tight) too. It makes a huge difference for me both in muscle soreness and in injury.
posted by brainmouse at 9:24 PM on August 1, 2013

Response by poster: Ack, typo. The parenthetical should read "(I'm adding intermittent jogging every other day, or every third day)". To be clear, I walk every day.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:28 PM on August 1, 2013

Massage your legs, take some advil, buy some compression pants to wear at night (these REALLY helped me), and go run again. You're dealing with lactic acid... running will actually help work it out of your legs.
posted by matty at 9:29 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Where are you sore in the quads? Close to the hip? Near the knee? Inside of the knee? To the outside?

Seconding the foam roller. Post-jog stretching, massage, and ice bath are also good recovery techniques (yes, real ice and cold water in a bathtub which you get into!).
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:54 PM on August 1, 2013

Response by poster: Where are you sore in the quads?

Near the knee, on the anterior (front) side of the leg, not laterally or medially. I feel it most when getting in and out of chairs or when walking down stairs.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:01 PM on August 1, 2013

HEY!!!! You're my FitBit buddy!!! Keep it up. I've been a slacker the last week or two because of grad school finals, but I WILL catch up with you!

And really... the compression pants worn at nighttime work magic.
posted by matty at 10:05 PM on August 1, 2013

This doesn't work for everyone, but it works for me. A teaspoon of L-glutamine in a smoothie after a workout. It makes a huge difference for me. Good luck!
posted by icanbreathe at 10:35 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stretches before and after (and every night), foam roller, magnesium supplements. Epsom salt baths or scrubs if it's really bad.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:59 PM on August 1, 2013

How many times have you been running since taking it up again? Definitely do the stretching, but the soreness might just go away by itself once your muscles get used to running again.

My COMPLETELY NON-EXPERT opinion is that if you run while you're still sore and the soreness goes away after a few minutes, you're fine. If you are literally having to push through the soreness, it might be your body telling you to rest awhile.
posted by pianissimo at 3:44 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I want to second the Epsom salt baths. You can but Epsom salts unscented, but they help you absorb the magnesium from the salts, which is really relaxing and helps muscles recover.
posted by shortyJBot at 5:04 AM on August 2, 2013

always stretch after runs! always always always! if you don't stretch muscles can tighten up, causing additional stress on other related muscles which can lead to injury down the road. look up stretches for your specific muscle, and then while doing that stretch try to listen to your body to see if any other spots need work too. also if there is a particular area that is nagging more than others, take a few minutes throughout the day to gently restretch that muscle. if anything it could help to add some yoga into your workout routine - yoga and running are an excellent combo.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 5:42 AM on August 2, 2013

I've found dynamic warmups before running and static stretching after to be helpful.

I have quad soreness as well, and the best warmups for me have been walking lunges. For stretching after, try the hip quad stretch. There are a ton of general guides online, for example, here and here

Really, though, make sure you're taking care of all the muscles in your legs and hips so they support and enforce each other.

The other thing to consider is that your gait might be putting extra stress on your quads, so maybe look into getting advice about that.
posted by Gorgik at 6:17 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice.

If it's delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)--the kind that starts around 24-48 hours after exercise--you should be good to go. One of the characteristics of DOMS is that it eases off once you start moving again. I am quite familiar with DOMS due to my on-again, off-again approach to certain forms of exercise such as XC skiing, ergometer rowing, and swimming, which use some muscles that my normal cycling and walking don't really stress. DOMS is related to the muscles' recovery from unusual stress, and the conventional wisdom is that you can exercise through it, though it's prudent not to push yourself too hard.

In my experience, if you keep up the activity, DOMS usually goes away once you're doing the exercise regularly, even if you ramp up your activity significantly. The last time I took a couple months off my bike, I had DOMS when I went back to 30-40 miles a week, but I have gone from 50 miles/week to 100+ miles/week in a short period with no DOMS.

If it's soreness that starts during or shortly after the activity, or that gets worse when you start exercising, then it's a good idea to take a couple days' rest, and to see a doctor if it persists.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:58 AM on August 2, 2013

Agree with everything brianogilvie and brainmouse say. (My experience: several years of serious working out, most recently crossfit.) A little bit of light movement the next day -- a nice long walk, for example, can often take the edge off DOMS. Also, nthing the advice about stretching and rolling out.

But unless you're getting injury kinds of pain (and injury kinds of pain are usually pretty easy to distinguish from "oh, I worked hard" kinds of pain), you should adapt to this within a short while.
posted by paultopia at 7:05 AM on August 2, 2013

Oh, also, tightness (and hence soreness) in the lower body can be in places you don't expect it to be -- every muscle is interconnected in lots of ways. So I'd suggest being sure to stretch and roll out not only quads, but also hamstrings, calves, hips, IT band, glutes.
posted by paultopia at 7:06 AM on August 2, 2013

Agree with all the stretching afterward and foam rolling advice. Foam rolling is AMAZING. Works really well for me.
posted by bedhead at 7:20 AM on August 2, 2013

Response by poster: This is absolutely DOMS. I jogged again this morning, and the soreness did not bother me at all while I was jogging. Thanks for the advice, everyone!
posted by ocherdraco at 7:39 AM on August 2, 2013

Gorgik: "I have quad soreness as well, and the best warmups for me have been walking lunges."

I just found that particular link the other day while searching previous questions and it's fantastic. I've been doing all those stretches after my walks and runs and it's really helped. It just so happens that I forgot to stretch after last night's jog and I am really paying for it today.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:37 AM on August 2, 2013

For the record, the notion that stretching before running provides any improvement in muscle soreness or injury risk has been completely and systematically debunked (see Herbert and Shrier amongst many, many others). If you read Herbert, there is also significant doubt about the effectiveness of post-workout stretching on soreness or injury. It is quite likely that whatever benefit people think they feel is a placebo effect and the resulting benefit if any, is tiny. It may help with range of motion and flexibility, which could improve performance (or could hinder it, depending on whether we are talking about hip flexibility or lower leg flexibility).
posted by Lame_username at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2013

Stretching before or after your runs will not significantly mitigate your soreness. Keeping at it will. Your body isn't used to the activity, but with time it will become so. As a daily runner I can recommend ibuprofen as a way to deal with soreness for the few weeks it will take your legs to adjust and for your muscles to heal their micro-tears.

Keep at it!
posted by killdevil at 3:07 PM on August 2, 2013

Response by poster: So, I've done some rolling and some stretching, but I think the most helpful thing has been (as suggested) just keeping at it. Thank you, all!
posted by ocherdraco at 4:41 PM on August 2, 2013

I think you're doing something like c25k with the walk/run intervals, and I have to say when I started I experienced the exact same thing. I was kind of freaked out by it. I was scared to keep at it. But my endurance built up really quickly and I've stopped experiencing this altogether now five weeks in.
posted by Danila at 4:58 PM on August 2, 2013

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