If Pokémon GO has you racking up the steps as you spend hours scouring the city for virtual creatures, you’ve likely already experienced some of the game’s serious side effects. And no, we’re not referring to run-ins with the law, but the phenomenon known as accidental exercise.
As thousands of eager Pokémon masters have discovered, Pokémon Go is really just a fitness app in disguise. As players have jumped off the couch and into their neighborhoods (and cities, and parks) they’ve found that all that walking can add up—and that means serious soreness. (Seriously, there’s a subreddit dedicated to Pokémon Go fitness.)
And here’s the fact: Even if you’re a regular Machamp at the real-life gym, miles of walking every day can definitely leave your muscles tired and hurting. And on the flipside, just as a lone Squirtle can take down a much larger rock-type Pokémon with relative ease, you can beat the soreness and hunger—even if you’re not a natural athlete.
Either way, don’t let muscle soreness and hunger dampen your next session of Pokémon hunting. Here are a few simple, straightforward training and fueling tips. Being the best that ever was takes some smart strategy, too.
1. Start with a Hearty Breakfast
Start your day with a protein-packed breakfast that will keep you satisfied for hours (meaning more play time and less downtime searching for food). A 2014 University of Missouri study found that people who ate protein stayed fuller longer (and ate less at the next meal to boot). Filled with essential amino acids, eggs are often thought of as the perfect protein, making them an easy and smart pick for a pre-Pokémon hunting breakfast.
Wear the Right Clothes
There’s nothing worse than cutting your Pokémon play short because of uncomfortable chafing and sweat-drenched shirts. Pick lightweight, moisture-wicking tees, socks, and shorts, and while you’re at it, go ahead and ditch the street shoes for running sneakers. Check out our list of the best summer running gear for more apparel that will keep you cool and comfortable.
Start with a Warmup
It might sound crazy to warm up before playing a video game, but with users hitting 10+ miles on a single day, you’ll want to trust us on this one. Warming up can prevent fitness-related injuries and overuse by preparing your muscles for what’s to come and increase your range of motion.
Reps: 8 each leg
Why they’re effective: Since lunges are an exaggerated version of the movement of walking, they’re great for warming up the muscles you’ll use while gaming.
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Step forward with one leg and lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Step forward with your rear leg to perform the next rep.
Reps 5 each leg
Why it’s effective: You probably suffer from what’s been named “dormant butt syndrome,” which means your glutes “fall asleep” and are largely inactive. Butt kicks help wake them up.
How to do it: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Flex one knee, kicking the heel up toward your glutes. Bring it down and simultaneously flex your other knee, kicking that heel up toward your glutes.
Be sure to pack plenty of snacks when heading out. Want an easy pick? Bananas are naturally portable, full of potassium, and high in carbs, which provide energy if you’re in it for the long haul. Other smart choices that are easy to transport or can be found in any convenience store are nuts, nonfat Greek yogurt, and even hardboiled eggs.
Dehydration can leave you feeling weak, sluggish and dizzy—and if it gets bad, it can cause muscle cramps, which are all less than ideal if you want to play your best. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after playing, especially in the heat. But you don’t have to stick to plain water. Check out these 13 drinks that aren’t water, but will keep you hydrated anyway.
Strengthen Your Feet
No one ever thinks of working out their feet, but this overlooked body part serves as support for nearly every movement. Plus, weak foot strength can cause other body parts to overcompensate, causing pain and injury. Thankfully, this is one area that’s easy to strengthen. Follow our simple training plan for healthier, stronger feet.
Eat Recovery Enhancing Foods
Feel your best after a marathon Pokémon Go session by incorporating foods and drinks that boost muscle recovery into your diet. Research suggests that tart cherry juice can minimize pain and promote recovery for runners, while foods like Manuka money reduce exercise-induced inflammation. Read our list of 10 foods to cure sore muscles to find out how you can eat your way to recovery.
Take a Nap
If you’re feeling exhausted after a long day out in the sun searching for gyms, go ahead and take that nap. Scientists say napping two hours after a workout may help your body repair naturally by entering into a restorative state of sleep. Read 21 Best Ways to Prevent and Cure Sore Muscles for more ways to soothe soreness.
It’s tempting to get sucked into the game, but if you want to avoid muscle cramps, it’s best to start slow if you’re not used to a lot of physical activity. Set a daily mileage goal and increase the distance as your body adapts.
Okay, so this one won’t help your muscle recovery. But if you’re going to be out all day catching Pokémon, be sure to lather on the sunscreen. Choose one that has an SPF of at least 15 and be sure to reapply often. Looking for a good one? Try one of the 9 toughest sunscreens of 2016.