You worked out, hard. Now you feel like a badass. You totally are! You’ve been killing your workouts and doing push-ups like a boss. Then the endorphins wear off a bit and you start to feel a little tightness in your chest. All those push-ups made your pectoral muscles sore. And now your hamstrings are tight, tight, tight!
We’ve all been there at one point in our lives. Remember gym class? It seems like I always had that one teacher who made sure I left class feeling at least one muscle I didn’t even realize I had.
Last week, I did a particularly hard arm workout and could barely lift my arms above my head to brush my hair. Maybe I’m the odd one out, but as a personal trainer, I like to feel sore. I know I’ve given everything I’ve got when I feel the burn for a few days after my workout.
While experiencing soreness can be the mark of a good workout, you don’t need to be sore after every workout. Knowing why you get sore in the first place, and how to avoid it, while still getting in a good workout, can be one of the keys to success in your fitness journey.
Why you are sore
To build muscle, you must first break it down. When you workout intensely, it causes micro-tears in your muscles and you feel sore. The process is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, (DOMS), and is common after hard workout sessions.
DOMS can cause tight muscles, weakness and stiffness. DOMS is generally not felt until the day after the workout. Somewhere between 12-72 hours after pushing yourself. Generally, you will only experience DOMS after a new workout or a particularly hard workout.
Don’t be alarmed, DOMS does not last forever. As your muscles rebuild, the soreness will dissipate and you will get stronger. In fact, you are much less likely to get sore from this same workout the next time you perform it because your muscles have already adapted.
What can I do to reduce soreness
Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do to reduce muscle soreness. Stretching, yoga, and massage can provide minimal relief of symptoms, but do not treat the root cause. Contrary to popular belief, stretching after exercise does not actually reduce or prevent soreness. It will increase range of motion and loosen up tight muscles, but it does nothing to get rid of soreness altogether.
Studies have also shown that a topical application of Arnica, a flowering plant, can provide some pain relief, although this also does not treat the underlying muscle damage. It simply masks some of the pain associated with DOMS.
It generally takes 24-72 hours for soreness to fully subside. What you need for complete relief and muscle recovery is simply time.
The good news is that the next time you perform a similar workout, you are less likely to experience the same level of soreness, if any, because of your muscles’ ability to adapt to your training. This is known as the repeated bout effect and has been shown to last as much as 24 weeks after you do the activity. Even though you may not get as sore the next time you do the same workout, your muscles are still working and growing. They will adapt to the strain and better handle the stress.
How to prevent sore muscles in the first place
Sore muscles are not completely avoidable, but slowly adapting to a new exercise can reduce the effects of DOMS. Working out at a lighter intensity for 2-6 weeks when you are getting back to exercise can help reduce muscle breakdown and the resulting soreness. Gradually work your way up to more difficult workouts.
This is one of the reasons we provide a strength test before creating your 8fit workouts. We gauge your current level and give you workouts that are challenging, but appropriate for your current fitness level. This reduces your chances of experiencing DOMS, making your exercise program more enjoyable.
You may feel sore the first few days after your first 8fit workouts. All of the exercises are brand new and your body isn’t accustomed to this type of exercise yet. Don’t worry, soon your body will adapt to your new exercises habits, and you will experience increased levels of fitness and fewer sore muscles.
Should I still exercise when I am sore?
Experiencing sore muscles should not prevent you from exercising the following day. Just don’t repeat the same workout immediately. You can work other muscle groups and avoid using your sore muscles as you give them time to recover. Generally, recovery will take from 1-3 days.
While you recover, choose alternative exercises or workouts that build opposing muscle groups. You can also swap bodyweight exercises for a cardio workout, such as a run or bike ride. 8fit will automatically do this with your workout plan.
Best of all. Embrace your soreness and wear it like a badge of honor. You worked for that feeling. Be proud that you worked hard enough to make a change. Soreness, not to be confused with pain from an injury, happens when you have worked your muscles to the max and is part of the process to becoming a stronger, fitter you!