HELP! Should I Be This Sore After Working Out?
The short answer is, probably.
But it depends.
Soreness is, for many novices, the single worst thing about a new fitness routine. It’s not the dull-as dishwater cardio machines at the gym, or having to wake up super early for a session with a no nonsense trainer.
It’s not being able to walk after your first squat session, or being unable to raise your arms above your head after the first time you lift a set of 2.5 kg dumbbells.
Everything hurts. And it’s not fun.
But SHOULD everything hurt, all the time?
That soreness is known as DOMS (Delays onset muscle soreness) and it’s guaranteed to be able to turn even the most seasoned fitness fanatic or athlete into a slobbering mess. My first experience with DOMS was mindblowing-ly bad but because I’d read up on it, I knew that I should expect it.
DOMS happens when your muscles are getting used to exercise. Think of it this way: for the past five years of your life, you’ve done nothing except eat, drink, lie in bed and work (occasionally). One day you decide to get fit. So you dutifully warm up, and begin lifting things. Your body protests, as you do it, but generally you feel good. You eat well and you go to sleep, looking for another great gym session. But your body has other ideas. It needs to repair the stress (in the form of miniscule tears to muscle) that you placed it under the day before. And it’s going to make you feel it!
Three days later, your muscles will be stronger than they were when you started, and you can function again. But it’s this cycle that puts many off continuing with training – especially training, which places your muscles under load all the time.
What if it’s not DOMS? When should I be worried?
DOMS is soreness, and is expected with a hardcore routine that challenges your muscles. However there are injuries that you can pick up, which need attention. You will have to learn to distinguish between actual pain and muscle soreness. Pain will be sharp, whereas soreness (though painful) will in the majority of cases, develop after a day or so.
If you have pain, you must see a medical professional, to ensure you haven’t picked up a serious injury. For the newbie, this is why it’s important to work with a trainer or with someone who has experience in your sport, to ensure you do everything with the correct form.
Don’t be in a rush to turn into an athlete, and don’t over train your muscles too fast. Slow and steady wins the race.
So how can I ease the soreness?
The best medicine is rest.
DOMS is something that for many becomes something they look forward to. “It makes me feel like I worked out…” but this isn’t always the case. They might have pushed their bodies further than they should have. If you have soreness that really makes movement a problem, take some time out. If you must go to the gym, don’t work out that particular body part until the pain has dissipated.
Active recovery – take a walk to allow your muscles to warm up at the end of the day. Take in some low impact exercise such as swimming or jogging to encourage blood flow and healing.
Use a foam roller – a massage with a foam roller is for many, a very uncomfortable process; however the deep massage it gives helps many to deal with the ache that DOMS brings.
Learn to put the best into your diet - eating well can speed up your DOMS recovery – choose great protein sources for muscle building.
For those who stick with training, the pain will certainly decrease over time, and once your body is used to exercise, you may find that it takes a lot for your muscles to become that stressed again. That said, nothing is ever worse than the first battle you have with DOMS.