Yesterday was leg day, and MAN am I feeling it! I didn’t feel much soreness until about an hour or two ago, just a little over 24 hours post workout. Although standing from sitting and climbing stairs are no fun right now, I do feel a tinge of satisfaction every time I get sore after leg day. It’s a little victory in my head that says “Yep, I still got it.” You see, when you work out regularly, we often fall into a rut, not pushing ourselves past what we’re mostly comfortable with. When I feel sore the day following a workout, I know that I pushed myself, and that is generally a good thing. However, there is a fine line between being “ahhh” sore and “AHHHH” sore! A litte friendly how-do-you-do from your sore muscles is a good thing, but if you’re limping around, or unable to pick up your toddler (or in my case, puppies), you pushed yourself too hard and you may be risking injury. Now, I’m not talking to my bodybuilding friends, or my marathon running friends–you are competitors–and taking risks sort of comes with the territory. But for my friends just trying to work out for weight loss, toning, gaining muscle at a reasonable pace, and optimum health: you want to find that muscle fever sweet spot.
This soreness is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), or muscle fever, and despite oodles of research, it is still pretty mysterious. Although it is known that it is caused by a level of exertion that our bodies are not used to, we still don’t know exactly what is going on in there. Probably the most widely accepted theory, is that when we exercise, we are causing little micro tears in our muscles, and that it HURTS the
next day! There is no question whether or not we are causing micro tears, the question is whether or not that causes the DOMS. Any exercise can cause micro tears, but they happen especially during eccentric muscle contraction (this is when you are lowering a weight, descending during a squat or pushup, or running down hill), which is why negative reps can be so effective! Another theory is that DOMS is a mild case of Rhabdomyolisis, which is kidney poisoning from myoglobin during muscle crush injuries. Don’t worry though, you didn’t really “crush” your muscles! More severe cases have been reported by recruits at boot camp, recipients of deep massage, and even “weekend athletes” (like many of us are 😉 ) Some people theorize that DOMS is inflammation, while some say that inflammation is not present. FOr a long time, it was thought that DOMS was caused by lactic acid being produced, although that theory is mostly rejected now, because it seems that lactic acid levels return to normal about an hour after exercise. My point here is, that we’re not really sure what causes it. But anyone who has ever worked out hard, knows that it is real.
What can you do to help with the soreness? Well, again, there is not a lot of concrete evidence for anything here. I happen to find relief, personally, from a few of these things, or at the VERY least, they feel good while I’m doing them. So I say, do what feels good to you, but know that really there is no “right” way to take away the ouch!
- static stretching
- foam rolling
- warm baths
- epsom salt soak
- drinking lots of water
- take a recovery accelerator (like this or this)
- light aerobic exercise
HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS! There are things that you can do to help prevent excessive DOMS from happening! Basically the idea is don’t go too hard, too soon. Always give yourself a warm up. I like to jog slowly for a few minutes and do some light ballistic stretching. Don’t drastically increase your workout intensity, follow a 10% rule (unless you are training for a specific kind of competition, then you may be doing something different) and aim to increase your intensity (or distance, or speed) by about 10% per week. Hire a trainer if you are continually getting so sore that you are having trouble, oh, say, walking? Some soreness is a good sign, but you should still be able to go about your day without interruption from pain.
How do you deal with your DOMS?