We’ve all been there – workout for a bit, and for the next few days, our muscles hurt. For some people, muscle soreness means their workout was successful and motivates them to keep going. But for others, it can be a reason to stop exercising because they think it’s a bad thing.
There are so many myths and confusion about this topic! So I wanted to give you guys a quick guide to what muscle soreness is, why you get it, and how you can avoid it or minimize it.
What is Muscle Soreness?
The official name is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS, and it’s the pain and stiffness you experience in muscles after doing some type of exhausting exercise. It can happen around 12-24 hours after your workout, and usually lasts about 2 to 3 days. The second day is often the hardest.
Whenever you get DOMS, your muscles can get a little swelled and tender to the touch. You can also feel stiff, and it might be difficult for you to stretch your muscles fully.
What Causes Muscle Soreness?
Whenever your muscles have to work harder than they’re used to, very tiny, microscopic tears happen on your muscle’s fibers. This causes them to swell, and you feel pain during their healing process.
It sounds bad, but this is actually a good thing! Because it’s in their process of healing the little tears that your muscles become stronger.
The Myth: You need to be sore after every workout to see progress.
This is false. Soreness happens when you take your muscles out of their “comfort zone,” but, once they adapt, muscle soreness should gradually disappear.
“it is in your best interest to [remember] that exercise does not have to “hurt” to produce improvements in fitness levels.” Says the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).
Being sore all the time can be a sign that you’re over-doing it at the gym, you’re not taking enough rest, or instead of DOMS, you have an injury -and need to see a doctor.
Who Gets Muscle Soreness?
The myth: Only fitness beginners, or “people out of shape,” can get DOMS. This is false. Anyone that increases their workout intensity, or starts exercising after a long time, can get sore muscles.
As I said before, your muscles can adapt to the exercises you do. So whether you’re a beginner or a fitness pro, if you change up your exercise routine, you will get muscle soreness.
Note: I recommend a new workout routine every 6 weeks or so to rechallenge your muscles. If you need a workout routine to get started, you can get my Free Beginners Program here.
DOMS also depends on your genetics. Some people are more prone to get sore, some others are more resistant to it. It is good to remember this, so you don’t feel like you’re failing if you aren’t sore after exercising, but someone else is.
How to Avoid Muscle Soreness
Here’s the thing – DOMS is unavoidable. Sorry, this subtitle was fake news :D. If you put your body through something it hasn’t done before, or for a long time, it will get sore. There’s no way around it.
The Myth: Stretching before your workout can help DOMS – This is false. First, you should never stretch before you exercise. Stretching your muscles while they’re cold is a recipe for disaster.
You need to warm up 5-10 minutes → exercise → and then stretch. Warming up & stretching is useful to avoid injury, but they will not help with muscle soreness.
So, how can you recover faster from DOMS? By staying active.
Myth: You need to rest for a few days when you have DOMS. This is false.
Remember the last time you were sore? You went to bed or sat down to work, and when you tried to stand up, you could barely move. Your muscles were sorer and stiffer than before. Why? Because inactivity will make muscle soreness worse.
So please move your body – If your legs are sore, that’s no excuse to skip arm day ;). You can also walk your dog for 20 minutes, or take a yoga class. Even a little movement can help your muscles recover faster.
Other ways to decrease muscle soreness are:
- Cold showers
- Warm baths
- Eating nutritious post-workout meals
- Consuming enough protein
- Taking BCAA supplements
- Increasing exercise intensity gradually (instead of changing up routines abruptly).
- Accepting this is a natural process for your body’s recovery.
I hope this article helped you understand muscle soreness a little better.
If you have any additional questions about DOMS, or would like to talk about fitness coaching, please send me a DM on Instagram.