I spent much of last night dreading this morning’s workout. After 20 miles on Sunday, 7 on Tuesday, a hard workout with Brody on Wednesday, and 7 more miles yesterday, my body feels like it’s been run through the ringer. In fact, I’ve never felt this sore before. It’s not all bad though. Even though it’s tough for me to walk normally, my muscle soreness is a good sign that I’m pushing myself properly and that I’m getting stronger.
If you’ve ever started a new exercise routine, or kicked your existing routine up a notch, chances are you’ve experienced Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. DOMS is a pretty well documented phenomenon that describes the pain, soreness, and stiffness occurring within 24-48 hours of starting or changing an exercise routine. The feelings associated with DOMS are actually a normal response to the unusual exertion of your muscles and is part of the process that makes your muscles stronger.
It’s believed that DOMS is caused by micro tears in your muscle fibers that occur during intense workouts. Not only do the tears themselves cause soreness, but the swelling associated with them also contributes to your discomfort.
DOMS can be rather frustrating to exercisers, especially those of us who are still inexperienced exercisers. Sometimes, the pain is enough to stop people from working out. But actually, that is one of the worst things you can do. Below are a couple of ideas that you can use to help ease the symptoms of DOMS.
RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is usually associated with acute sports injuries such as joint sprains, ligament tears, and muscle sprains. But some studies suggest that RICE works to alleviate the symptoms of DOMS as well. Unfortunately, DOMS usually affects large portions of your body so it’s tough to compress and elevate. Resting is easy if you can find the time and you can always take an ice bath. It’s cold, but it works.
Active recovery is another great way to help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with DOMS. Immediately after an intense workout, and in the days following, perform some low-impact aerobic exercises. The increased blood flow may help to diminish muscle soreness and get you ready faster for your next big workout.
Ah massage, the best thing out there to help with muscle soreness. At least one study has shown that post-exercise massage can reduce muscle soreness by 30% or more. If you can afford the occasional massage, I say it’s money well spent. Try and find a therapist who specializes in sports massage. Mine likes to call our sessions “work sessions” instead of “massages.” She spends a lot of time on my calves and hamstrings. Not only does she massage, but she actively stretches my muscles which improves my flexibility. Even though I sometimes leave a session a little bit sore, I always feel better the following morning.
There are lots of ways to help your muscles feel better after a particularly tough workout. The above list is just a few that I have tried and seem to work for me. Some people report feeling better after a dip in the jacuzzi. Some stretch in the shower. Still others take NSAIDS like Advil. It’s important to remember that if one thing doesn’t work for you, try something different until you solve the problem. One thing that I’m fairly certain of is that DOMS is a temporary condition. Even though it is uncomfortable and annoying, you shouldn’t let it get you down or stop you from getting your workouts in. Muscle soreness is your body’s way of telling you that you’re using it well and that it’s getting stronger. And that is something you can be proud of.
How often are you sore after your workouts? What are some of the tricks that you’ve learned to get through it faster?