The aftermath of muscular exertion is often a few days of aching pain called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. While soreness after a significant exertion is somewhat of a given, there are things you can do to lessen the effect.
The most important factor in preventing and treating DOMS is increasing circulation to the area. (People used to think this was due to lactic acid build-up, a misconception that has lasted for decades). Here are two strategies you can use at home.
1. The best way to increase circulation is muscular contraction. If possible, move using a gentle form of exercise. If you are sore from a very long bike ride, go for a nice walk the next morning. Your muscles may initially complain, but will relent if you keep the activity at a low level.
2. Use contrast therapy. Apply moist heat for two minutes and then cold for thirty seconds. Alternate four to five times. The temperature differential is what helps and this is far more efficient than long stretches of cold or heat.
Research has shown that short sessions are better at dealing with DOMS than longer sessions. This is the strategy we use with U of I athletes. If you know that you are going to do something strenuous, schedule a half hour session the next day.
Also, on occasion, deeper massage work can create post-massage soreness. The best way to prevent this from occurring is to move after a session, rather than rest. If you had deep work on your calf and thigh, go for a short walk afterward. It really helps prevent post-massage soreness.
I just applied this myself, as I did a 100 mile bike ride a week ago. The next day, I had one of my staff do a short massage therapy session and I made sure to go for two walks with my wife. After the second day, the soreness was not noticeable.