1) Rest/Active Recovery - Getting plenty of sleep and resting your body may be the most effective treatment. In addition, active recovery, which is light exercise during the recovery phase can stimulate blood flow to the muscles to help reduce muscle pain. Active recovery can include swimming, or a light jog.
2) Hydration - Drinking plenty of water can help flush out toxins from your body and prevent dehydration, which can make muscle soreness even more painful. While there is no consensus on how much water you should drink, somewhere around 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water per day is a good starting point.
3) Pre & Post-Workout Nutrition - Consuming a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein either before, or after a workout, or both, may help reduce the severity of muscle soreness. (See: The Fit 5 - Pre & Post Workout Nutrition)
4) Topical Creams - creams like Ben Gay and IcyHot provide the perception of pain relief, but have no effects on the underlying muscle.
5) NSAIDS - nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil and Alleve can help relieve the discomfort of muscle soreness. It's not advisable to use NSAIDS on a consistent basis, but rather for an acute bout of soreness.
Other treatments include ice, cold baths, Epsom salt baths, massage and gentle stretching, but the effectiveness of these methods for speeding up recovery is questionable.
The same variables apply to running where fitness level is particularly important. For example, some elite marathoners run 100+ miles per week and need almost no rest between runs. On the other hand, a weekend warrior may attempt to run 20 miles in a week, or change up the stimulus with hill running, which could create intense soreness and require longer recovery times.
Q: What types of factors inhibit recovery?
1) Lack of sleep - if you are chronically sleep deprived, the muscle soreness will likely be more painful and may take more time to heal.
2) Lack of proper nutrition - If you are not adequately hydrated, or deficient in potassium, or are not eating enough protein, pain from muscle soreness may be more intense.
3) Overtraining - If you continue working out intensely without sufficient rest, muscle soreness may get worse.
The best way to avoid very sore muscles and improve recovery is to use a progressive exercise program where workouts become harder at a measured pace over time.
1) Foods That Are High In Potassium - potassium is a mineral that is crucial to heart function and muscle contraction. Those who have low potassium levels may experience muscle soreness and cramping. Foods with high potassium levels include bananas, oranges, melons, raisins, and potatoes.
2) High Protein Foods - protein is the building block of muscle, so foods that are high in protein may help repair sore muscles. High protein foods include meat, eggs, and dairy.
3) Pineapple - this tropical fruit is high in the enzyme bromelain, which is a natural anti-inflammatory that can help treat strains, sprains, and bruises.
4) Cherries - some studies show that cherries may be as effective as anti-inflammatory medications. Cherries contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants which reduce inflammation.
5) Fish Oil - high in Omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil may help reduce inflammation in joints and muscles.
There are a number of overtraining to watch out for including elevated heart rate, decreased strength, lack of motivation, and chronic soreness in your joints.
If you believe you are experiencing overtraining symptoms, the best thing you can do is to rest. In other words, don't exercise at all, sleep as much as possible, eat well, drink plenty of water, and allow your body to recuperate from the stresses you have placed upon it. The reality is if you are overtraining, it make take some time to reverse the damage that has been done. It's better to not exercise at all and recover fully, then to try to continue training but at a decreased level.