You crushed your workout. Woooo! How great does it feel? Well, that probably depends on how long it’s been since you finished. The next day you wake up and normal movements just elicit a cringe. But two days later? It hurts just to exist. Most of you have probably been there, but you may not know why.
What causes this delayed soreness?
Your awkward, limited range of movement and the temptation to rub Bengay everywhere are brought to you by delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS usually occurs when you introduce something new into your routine. This can be a new exercise, increased intensity or increased volume. It’s also common if you haven’t worked out in a while or are completely new to something. The soreness is an indication that your body is adapting to the activity. It will normally kick in six to eight hours after your workout, and peak between 24-48 hours post training.
The absence of “lactic acid” in that answer may surprise you. Despite popular belief, soreness is not a result of lactic acid build up. DOMS is the result of microtears in the muscles and surrounding connective tissues that cause inflammation.
You might also be surprised to learn that the act of lifting a weight (the positive phase) is not what causes those microtears. For example, curling a dumbbell up is not the movement that causes the soreness. Once the weight is up, it is lowering the dumbbell, or the negative phase, that stretches out the muscle and causes muscle trauma.
If I’m not sore, does it mean I didn’t get a good workout?
Many masochistic athletes seek out DOMS as a way to “prove” they’re training hard enough. However, soreness is not the only indicator of a good workout. If you’re just starting out, you might be ridiculously sore after every single workout, but as you progress and get stronger, DOMS will affect you less and less.
Can soreness be avoided?
Unfortunately, no. While a proper warm up and cool down can help you prevent injury, any new activity or increased intensity is going to result in soreness. As your muscles adapt, you will become less sore. If you want to minimize soreness, try increasing intensity by about 10% every week, which should be gradual enough to reduce the strain on your muscles.
How can you get rid of the soreness?
As much as you might hate to hear it, doing some light training is the best way to relieve the pain. When you exercise, you’re increasing blood flow to your muscles, which helps speed up your recovery.
Additional sources of relief include:
- Sitting in a hot tub or sauna
- Hydration – Be sure to drink lots of water to help flush the toxins in your muscles.
- Foam rolling – The compression and rolling of tissue stimulates fluid movement and the healing processes.
- Sleep! – This is the easiest, yet most overlooked key to recovery.
- Supplement – Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) help repair and rebuild muscles while optimizing recovery. Try our new Best BCAA™ w/ Energy for all the amino acids benefits, plus a boost of energy.