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Natural Remedies for Occasional Athletes
When Friday rolls around, freedom from the work week is so close you can taste it. You were born to be outside, climbing those mountains, hoisting those sails, the sun warm on your shoulders.
If you’ve been cooped up indoors, the urge to get outside and move can be irresistible. Yet that’s the time to match enthusiasm with precaution. Do a good warm-up, make sure your equipment fits, and if you’re fatigued from the week, rest up before plunging in. A lack of preparedness can do real damage, from sprains and sore muscles to heat exhaustion. If you’re sidelined, though, don’t panic. Natural remedies can have you on your toes before the next workout or outdoor adventure.
Overexertion and Sore Muscles
You know the sensation: you’re back at work after an active weekend and your muscles are on fire. What happened? It’s Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), a product of too much lactic acid. The substance builds up when you work your muscles so hard that they can’t get enough oxygen to release the pyruvate, a compound generated in the process of burning glucose to create energy.
What to do? Try a carnosine supplement before and after your next exercise. This dipeptide, found in muscle and brain tissue, appears to both prevent the accumulation of lactic acid by acting as a buffer between muscles, and facilitate muscle contraction and recovery. Or try cissus, a healing herb used in India. It aids recovery by increasing the body’s available collagen, which is necessary for repairing tissue that’s been broken down during intense workouts. High in ascorbic acid, carotene, calcium, and phytosterols, cissus also promotes bone reformation—which makes it a good choice if you’ve broken something. Another supplement to consider is carnitine, an essential nutrient derived from the amino acid lysine. In a 2002 study of weekend warriors at Ball State University in Indiana, researchers found that carnitine supplementation significantly helped participants recover from high-intensity exercise. Taken regularly prior to a workout, it promotes energy and endurance and decreases tissue damage, which translates as less muscle soreness.
Sprains and Strains
Although these are minor injuries, they feel like anything but. A sprain, or injury to a ligament, occurs most often in the wrist, elbow, ankle, or knee. A strain, or tear in the muscle tissue, usually hits the muscles supporting the shoulder, calf, thigh, or groin. The primary treatment, of course, is RICE: rest, ice (wrapped in a towel, never directly on skin), compression, and elevation of the affected body part.
Potent natural healers to use along with RICE include enzymes, catalysts that speed up the body’s biochemical processes. Proteolytic enzymes in particular, such as bromelain (derived from pineapple) and serrapeptase (produced in the intestines of silk worms), have anti-inflammatory qualities that help decrease swelling.
Homeopathic arnica, a pain reducer and speedy healer, is available as a cream, ointment, or tincture. Bryonia, another homeopathic, is used for injuries that become worse with movement, while rhus toxicodendron helps injuries that improve with movement. Ledum helps heal sprained ankles that improve with ice. Try ruta for tennis elbow and runner’s knee.
Sweat is the body’s way of cooling off. But if you’re overheated for an extended period of time and don’t replace the fluids you’ve lost, the internal systems that regulate temperature become overwhelmed and can’t release the heat. If you become dehydrated, heat exhaustion can lead to potentially deadly heat stroke. Take immediate action if you feel dizzy, clammy, or nauseated. Drink copious amounts of cool water or a sports drink with electrolytes. Frequently recommended homeopathic treatments include glonoinum and bioplasma (cell salts).
Get Moving with Rosehips
If conditions such as achy joints or osteoarthritis plague you, a fling as a weekend warrior may have been out of the question. Help is now available. Recent clinical trials have shown that specially processed rosehip powder, taken as a supplement for at least three weeks, can have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects. According to the studies, it’s more likely to reduce pain and disability than glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate, and can relieve exhaustion. Rosehips are a significant source of vitamin C and iron.