Did you ever think you could hurt so good?
The reality: soreness is unavoidable when you start to exercise, change up your routine, or push weights.
BUT this is a good sign-- it means your body is changing. Your muscles are growing! This is the "good" part of the hurting.
Now, if you can't walk for a week straight, something is not right. You went way too hard and you may need to seek medical assistance.
But if you feel sore 24 to 48 hours after you sweat it out, this is normal. It's what people refer to as the DOMS-- delayed onset muscle soreness.
When you lift or engage the muscles hard, little tiny tears form in your muscles. Sounds horrible at first, right? But then they repair and grow to prepare for the next challenge.
Unfortunately, this can cause inflammation and a little bit of that "ouch." It's not that lactic acid build up that everyone assumes. Lactic acid happens during your training, when the muscles can't get enough oxygen. It's that burn you feel while doing those burpees or bicep curls!
Luckily, there are some things you can do to help lessen the soreness (again, you can never get rid of it entirely!).
And just to be clear-- different people experience different levels of soreness. It's part of being the unique YOU that you are. If you don't feel sore, it does not mean your workout was useless. It just means your genetics and body are a bit different. So you're recovery is different.
Here are some things you can do to lessen muscle soreness BEFORE (or during) your workouts:
Yea, yea we know this. Drink water. It can be hard though, right?? Your muscles love water (muscle weight is 65-75% water) so you need to give them what they want. Replenish your body!
2. Supplement your fitness
I drink BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) every day-- before my workout, during, and after. Amino acids help stimulate protein synthesis while preventing your muscles from breaking down muscle tissue for energy. These are also crucial if you train while fasted!
Other pre-workout supplements include citruilline malate, creatine, and nitric oxide boosters. These can be found in many pre-workout powders to help boost your energy, help with water retention in the muscle, and increase blood flow and get more oxygen to the muscles. I would only recommend these to you if you train hard.
My advice: Don't ever drink protein, creatine, or other supplements hoping that you'll magically bulk up! They are called supplements for a reason-- giving your body what it needs in its current state that you can't get solely from food sources. If you don't workout, your muscles will not be starving for these things!
3. Cardio warm up-- do not stretch cold
Get the blood flowing and oxygen to the muscles before you start your training. This will help you loosen up and decrease your risk for injury. Easy cardio-- stationary bike, elliptical, slow jog in place, etc. Once you get in your easy warm-up then you can go hard!
4. Decrease eccentric exercises
What are these? The ones where you're fighting gravity -- like coming up slowly from a squat or pushing weights overhead. Static exercises, where there is no movement, will also hold the muscle under more tension. These are most associated with DOMS. Lessen the weight or lessen the time your muscles are under tension.
5. Go at a Pace that suits YOU
Don't try to go too hard too quickly. Even if you're so excited to pick up that heavy weight or jump higher, you may hinder your progress if you go beyond your means too quickly. This is where you could quickly get discouraged. Work up to it, you'll be better for it and get to your results quicker.
Now for some things you can do AFTER, when the DOMS have already set in:
1. Stretch/Foam roll
Really, you can't stretch too much!! Most of us don't stretch enough (eh emm..this girl). The best time to stretch is after you've exercised and your muscles are warm. If you stretch before you get any blood flow to the muscles, you have a higher risk of strain.
Safely stretch the muscles you've targeted after you've worked hard. If you have some spots you really want to get into, foam roll these areas.
2. Ice then heat
Immediately after a workout, icing can help reduce inflammation. After your muscles get back to normal temperature, take a hot shower to open up the blood vessels and increase circulation, getting fresh blood and nutrients into the muscles.
3. Cardio Post Workout
Incorporate an easy cardio cool down immediately following your workout before you stretch. Cardio the following day can also help get the blood flowing and loosen up those stiff muscles and promote healing.
Have you ever sat for too long, stood up, and felt stiff as a board? But you walk around for a few minutes and feel better? That's because movement helps!
4. Carb up
You'll probably see a lot of fitness folks drink a "recovery" shake after their workout. These usually consist of a lot of simple sugars, aka carbs. Carbs help the muscles store more water, aiding in hydration, muscle repair, and removal of toxins.
Your body is also needing to resupply its glycogen stores after a hard workout. This also helps the processes necessary to resupply your muscles with nutrients for proper recovery.
5. Eat more protein
After training, your body works hard to repair those tiny tears in the muscle, so you need to replenish the body with the amino acids it requires to do so. These come from protein. Feed them so they can recover!
As always, I hope my advice finds you well. Go fight DOMS, and keep up the work you're putting in to your fit, healthy, happy, life.
Remember, YOU matter most :)