Whenever you start a new fitness regimen, you can almost count on enduring sore muscles for the next few days. Even if you’re not doing anything new, particularly grueling sessions can leave your body fatigued and aching. Though you could simply shrug it off, doing so could be a recipe for injury.
The good news is you don’t need to resort to expensive treatments or equipment to relieve the pain and get ready for your next effort. We spoke to two fitness professionals to find out what products they recommend to their clients and use in their own lives. Stock these six items in your house, and sore muscles don’t stand a chance.
1. TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller
A favorite among runners, a foam roller is a simple tool anyone who’s serious about working out should own. According to John Rowley, CPT and founder of UX3 Nutrition, these tools “are beneficial in helping ease muscle pain and soreness by increasing blood flow to your muscles and creating better mobility.” This means foam rollers can really help you out no matter what type of exercise you enjoy.
Picking a model can be intimidating with so many choices on the market, but Michael Conlon, owner and physical therapist at Finish Line Physical Therapy, recommended TriggerPoint’s GRID model. He particularly likes the textured exterior because it “closely mimics what a person might do with their hands, allowing the user to apply more or less pressure to a targeted muscle group, depending on tissue tolerance.”
Though this design is certainly a bit pricier than some, it’s sturdy enough that you won’t have to worry about it losing shape over time. Purchasing the GRID foam roller also gains you access to instructional videos, which is perfect for anyone who isn’t used to the method.
2. Champion Sports NCAA NFHS Certified Lacrosse Ball
For more specific muscle pain or hard-to-reach areas, a massage ball is a huge help. While many companies make specific products, Conlon said you can achieve the same results using a regular lacrosse ball. “This enables you to target specific painful areas and release trigger points and adhesions that restrict motion,” he said.
Go for a two-pack of lacrosse balls from Champion Sports so you can keep one at home and pack the other one in your suitcase or gym bag. They’re also inexpensive, so you don’t need to stress out if you lose one or even both.
3. Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice
A tough sweat session leads to a certain amount of inflammation. The traditional method for reducing such swelling involves lots of icing and rest, but you might be able to fast-track your recovery with the right foods. Rowley said drinking cherry juice, a potent source of antioxidants, “can help reduce inflammation and decrease muscle soreness.” It might sound too good to be true, but studies have demonstrated the juice’s ability to aid recovery.
The tricky thing with picking out a cherry juice is finding one that isn’t filled with a bunch of sweeteners. Cheribundi’s version is made with only cherries and apple juice concentrate for a flavor that’s just sweet enough.
4. Justin’s Classic Peanut Butter
We’re big believers in post-workout nutrition here at The Cheat Sheet, which means a balance of carbohydrates and protein. The latter is particularly useful for recovery. Rowley explained digging into protein after a workout can “help repair and rebuild the muscles.” His go-to sources include his own protein powder, meats, and peanut butter.
We particularly like the last suggestion because it’s easy to pack in your gym bag and works for just about any diet. Try this all-natural version from Justin’s. It’s brimming with protein and healthy fats and doesn’t include any of the fillers you’ll find in most supermarket varieties.
5. SmartWool PhD Run Graduated Compression Ultra Light Socks
You’ve probably seen professional athletes wearing skin-tight, knee high socks before. Strange looks aside, such compression gear can make a big difference in how you feel after a tough workout. Both Rowley and Conlon are fans of this type of gear. “Applying compression to your muscles will improve blood flow and maintain tissue tensions, allowing your muscles to heal faster,” Conlon said.
Socks are probably the most readily available compression products, and they’re great for anyone training for distance running events or doing anything involving a lot of legwork. Try SmartWool’s lightweight socks. This design gives you all the benefits of the compression without the same sticky feeling you find with other versions thanks to the moisture-wicking fabric and mesh ventilation.
6. Morton Epsom Salt
A time-tested method for soothing muscles, a hot bath with epsom salts remains one of the best methods for soothing aching muscles. According to Rowley, the salty solution “can reduce swelling and calm your central nervous system.” Do yourself and your wallet a favor by skipping the expensive specialty versions in favor of Morton’s basic soak. It comes in a 4-pound bag, so you don’t have to worry about running out any time soon.