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No pain, no gain! As athletes, we’ve heard that a thousand times and know that it can be taken quite literally in the gym. That’s because it’s true!
During a particularly productive weight lifting rep or cardio session, we’re effectively creating microscopic injuries in our muscles, which causes pain and soreness. As the body gets to work repairing them, the muscles grow back bigger and stronger; hence, the phrase no pain, no gain.
Sure, a little pain is good. But too much of it can deter you from achieving your goals as an athlete and prevent you from working to get to the next level. If you’re too sore and too tired, you’re a lot less likely to get back in the saddle again tomorrow.
But with a few simple and effective pain management tips, your muscles will recover faster and you’ll feel ready to conquer your next workout like a pro.
Top Athlete Pain Management Tips
Here are our top athlete pain management tips. Utilizing these tips will help your body run at peak performance and get you back in the game in record time after soreness or injury.
Try a CBD Supplement
Everybody knows that supplemental protein is crucial for athletes (more on that below), but there may be one super-powerful supplement you’re overlooking — CBD. If you’re not yet hip to CBD, here’s a quick rundown: It’s the non-psychoactive (meaning it won’t make you high) chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant that has the power to help you recover better and get better rest. Taking a few servings of CBD oil before you work out and using a topical CBD cream afterward is an excellent way to help facilitate quicker recovery.
Pile on the Protein
Every athlete knows that you need ample protein in order to grow your muscles. After all, it’s quite literally what muscle mass is made of. But did you know that how and when you take your protein supplements can impact how much pain you feel in recovery? Research shows that protein helps with muscle recovery, especially when consumed within the first 72 hours after your workout. So make sure you don’t skip the protein shake after a productive trip to the gym!
Leverage Your Diet
In addition to supplementation with protein powder and CBD, you want to think about what you’re putting in your body before and after you work out in order to help speed up recovery. We all know the age-old trick of eating a banana for recovery. Bananas are packed with potassium, which serves as an electrolyte to help manage fluid and nutrients through the body, effectively helping replenish the body after sweating it all out. But bananas aren’t the only food to fuel better recovery. Other excellent post-workout snacks include cottage cheese, eggs, spinach, salmon, turmeric and anything rich in fiber or omega-3 fatty acids.
Enjoy a Soak in the Hot Tub
Is there anything more relaxing than a lengthy soak in a hot tub or Jacuzzi? Not only can a long dip help you unwind and de-stress, but it can also help facilitate quicker muscle recovery and put you back into a state of comfort so you can recover in peace without the discomfort. We recommend practicing active recovery on your off days — take a hike or do a yoga class to stay active without overdoing it — and then following up with a half hour or so in some hot water.
Stretch After a Workout
We all know that stretching before a workout is crucial to our ability to move properly and avoid injury. But you may be surprised to learn that post-workout stretching is also great for your pain management routine. Getting your poses in after you hit the gym can help decrease muscle soreness by increasing local blood flow. It will also help you relax and increase flexibility, leaving you in a better position to avoid pain, soreness and injury in the future.
Give the Pain a Gentle Massage
There’s no denying that massage therapy is one of the very best ways to manage all kinds of pain throughout the body. Whether it’s done by the hands of a professional masseuse or using a foam roller at home, massage can help work out those stiff pain points so you feel like yourself again and can get back to moving. Hands-on manipulation with the help of a professional can work for everything from serious injuries to the everyday aches and pains that tend to linger after a tough workout.
Use Heat and Cold Therapy
Depending on your specific needs, both hot and cold therapies should be used to treat pain. If you have an injury or swelling, cold therapy can do wonders by helping you get things back to a manageable state. For everyday aches, pains and soreness, heat therapy — such as using a heating pad directly at the site of pain — can help relax the muscles and stimulate blood flow for instant relief. Just make sure to never use heat therapy after an acute injury or when there’s swelling.
See a Professional
If you’ve noticed that your temporary pain and swelling seem to be a result of a serious injury or that they’re turning out to be a chronic problem, it’s time to see a professional. Your physician, physical therapist or athletic trainer will be able to help you figure out what’s causing the lingering pain and help you get on a path to permanent relief.
As athletes, we focus so much of our energy on the actual workout that we sometimes forget to think about optimization during the hours away from the gym.
But the truth is that, if we’re suffering from debilitating pain or soreness, we’re a whole lot less likely to show up day after day.
Prioritizing recovery with healthy, natural pain management solutions can help you stay energized and ready for anything so you can push yourself to the next level again and again.