DOMS. And it sucks, doesn't it? But it's a fact of life at the gym, right? And, I don't know about you, but I kind of like being sore. After all, I've earned it. I've earned the right to feel the work that I've done...the physical challenges I've overcome. But that doesn't make it any more comfortable.
So what do you do when your muscles are sore?
1) Rest up. Or keep going.
If it's really bad, if you truly cannot move through the pain, then you need to take some time off. Give your muscles a chance to recover. If they don't, then there might be an underlying injury you need to address. But if the soreness is mild, if it really doesn't keep you from doing anything, then keep going. Movement actually works to soothe sore muscles. Just use your best judgement when deciding how much and what kind of movement is best.
2) Get a massage. Or use a foam roller.
A good massage therapist'll dig right into those muscles, releasing any tension and untying and knots, but they can be really expensive. Lucky for you, a foam roller can get the job done, too. Your gym should have one. If not, one can typically be purchased wherever fitness equipment is sold. (Note: You could also have someone roll a tennis ball over your sore muscles. Good luck with that.)
3) Take an anti-inflammatory. But check with your doc first.
Please note that I am not a doctor and that I can't determine whether an anti-inflammatory is good for you specifically, but they have been known to eliminate soreness. So an Advil or an Ibuprofin might work, but again, I wouldn't take one unless you're sure your health can handle it.
4) Turn the heat up.
From a heating pad to a hot shower, a hot tub to the sauna—heat encourages blood to flow more freely, which ultimately instigates the recovery process.
5) Stretch. Or do some yoga.
Sometimes we just get tight. Finish off every workout with at least ten minutes of active or passive stretching. This helps combat delayed soreness, but it can sometimes fail you. So if you still feel sore a day or two after your workout, don't hesitate to do some more stretching. Always stretch actively first, then follow it up with some passive stretching. Of course, you can always take a yoga class.
Just remember this: Muscle soreness isn't necessarily a bad thing and it shouldn't scare you away from the gym. Or, more specifically, the exercise that made you sore in the first place. Muscle soreness is a sign of progress, provided you didn't actually hurt yourself (see #1 above). So if it happens to you, stop and consider the above, then take a look at what you did to make yourself sore. If all is good and proper in your world (form, reps, weight), then consider the above and move on.
And, well...if you're like me, then be sure to enjoy it, too. Way to work hard, friend.
Question: Do you like being sore? What's the last thing you did that made you really sore?