We've all been there—workout for a bit, and our muscles hurt for the next few days. 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 not good.
There are so many myths and a need for clarification about this topic! Here is a quick guide to muscle soreness, why it happens, and how to avoid or minimize it.
What is Muscle Soreness?
The official name is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS, which is the pain and stiffness you experience in muscles after challenging physical activity. It can happen around 12-24 hours after your workout and usually lasts about 2 to 3 days, and the second day is often the hardest.
Your muscles can get swollen and tender to the touch whenever you get DOMS. You can also feel stiff, and it might be difficult for you to stretch your muscles fully.
Very tiny, microscopic tears happen on your muscle fibers whenever your muscles work harder than they're used to. This extra effort causes them to swell, and you feel pain during their healing process.
It doesn't sound good, but this is a good thing! Because it's in the process of healing the little tears, 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." Still, muscle soreness should gradually disappear once they adapt, "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 overdoing 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.
Your muscles can adapt to your exercises. So, whether you're a beginner or a fitness pro, you will get muscle soreness if you change your exercise routine.
Note: I recommend a new workout routine every six weeks to rechallenge your muscles. You can get my Free Beginners Program if you need a workout routine.
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 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. If you put your body through something it hasn't done before or for a long time, it will get sore, and 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, and stretching your muscles while they're cold is a recipe for disaster.
You need to warm up for 5-10 minutes → exercise → and then stretch. Warming up & stretching is helpful 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 to relieve DOMS–this is false.
Remember the last time you were sore? You went to bed or sat down to work and tried to stand up, but you could barely move. Why? Inactivity will make muscle soreness worse.
So please move your body–If your legs are sore, that's no excuse to skip upper body 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:
-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 want to talk about fitness coaching, please send me a DM on Instagram.