Have you ever done a workout that led to sore, stiff, tender, and achy muscles the next day? Or perhaps it lasted two days or more? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a common side effect from working out. This blog will give a general understand of why it happens and what to do about it.
Why does it happen?
Surprisingly, scientists are not 100% sure. The current theory is that eccentric exercises are the biggest contributor [eccentric meaning to lengthen]. An easy example to think of would be a deadlift – Imagine doing a normal deadlift, but on the way down, have it take 5 seconds instead of 1. The eccentric portion of the lift was just increased 5x. If you do enough of this in relation to your current fitness level, it can cause micro-trauma to the muscle. The important note here is that it does not matter if you just started fitness or you’ve been doing it for years, it’s all in relation to your past experiences. You build up a tolerance the more you do fitness, resulting in less soreness, but it does still occur if you do enough! The key is to slowly increase the difficulty of your workouts over time. Lastly, despite the scary sounding name, micro-tears are what actually make you stronger! When the tears occur, they body sends repair agents to the scene to begin making the muscles stronger for the next workout. Just make sure you are eating enough protein to facilitate the muscle building!
What can you do about it?
Simplest answer – keep moving! This may seem counter-intuitive to beginners, but all fitness enthusiasts know that you must get going ASAP to reduce the soreness, tightness, stiffness, and aches. The more soreness you have, the more warmup you’ll need before your next workout. Think: rowing or biking, full body movements that get the blood pumping and muscles working again and loosened up. If the soreness is excessive, you may want to scale or reduce the intensity of your next workout. But again, to reiterate; it is better to do the workout than not! Lastly, foam rolling will help reduce soreness as well as a hot shower or sauna. I am not a big fan of taking medicine such as NSAIDs, but in small doses it can help reduce the pain. [Be careful not to make a habit out of taking medicine, it is not good for you!]
So is soreness a good thing or bad thing?
It’s all about perspective, right? I prefer to think that I found a weakness in my fitness regiment, and I just got gains by going outside of my comfort zone. The soreness will go away [I’m working out again the next day right?] and then the gain train continues. If you are sore all the time it would be worth it to investigate your nutrition, your recovery (sleep), and hydration habits. Properly done, these habits help your body stay in tip-top shape and recover faster from workouts.