It is common to want to jump right into an activity you are are excited about and haven’t done for a while. Especially when it comes to working out or physical activity. As a personal trainer, the biggest downfall of new exercisers is giving up due to soreness. First of all, soreness is going to happen no matter who you are. Second, it will go away! There are things you can do to help understand and prevent the intensity of this soreness.
Why do I get sore?
In order for your muscles to improve and grow, they have to go through some physical changes. When you exercise, you are actually causing micro tears in your muscle fibers. The soreness occurs from your body repairing and building new sarcomeres within each muscle fiber. This is what causes your body to become stronger and adapt to the forces you place on it. Over time, your body will no longer become sore after performing the activity.
Why don’t I feel sore until 1 or 2 days later?
While in college, one of my friend and I’s favorite things to do was to tell people we had DOMS. We always got one of the same two reactions. People would either say “Oh, I’m sorry.”, as if they knew it was some bad medical condition, or they would look at us perplexed and ask “What is that?”.
DOMS is the soreness you feel 24 to 48 hours after performing the activity. It is short for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This is completely normal and common. The reason the soreness does not show up for this long after is not known for sure. The consensus is that the rebuilding stage for the muscle fibers takes this long to be noticed. Also, swelling can occur in and around the muscles. This swelling can cause an increased amount of pressure on the surrounding structures (nerves, joints, muscles), adding to the soreness.
What can I do to prevent the intensity of the soreness?
Most likely you will get sore after an activity you have not done in a while. However, there are some things you can do to prevent getting extremely sore. The most important thing is to properly warm-up and cool-down before and after activity. This can be done by stretching the muscles you plan to work the most and doing some type of low-impact exercise (riding a bike or walking for 10 minutes).
Drink plenty of water. Keeping you muscles hydrated will allow the rebuilding process to work more efficiently. Dehydrated muscles have a risk of cramping and causing more damage.
Work up your activity slowly over time. Especially when lifting weights or exercising for long distances, start light and slow. This will allow your body to grow and strengthen over a safe period of time.
I’m already sore, what do I do?
There are things you can do to help reduce your soreness once it sets in. Keep drinking water so your muscles do not dehydrate and cramp.
Rest and ice the muscles that are sore. Place ice over the area for about 15-20 minutes. Leave the ice off for at least one hour to allow proper circulation to reoccur. Be careful not to leave the ice on too long, this could lead to nerve damage.
DO NOT USE HEAT! Heat will bring more swelling to the area, causing more soreness.
Avoid vigorous activity, but keep moving. If you are lifting weights, go back over the exercises you did that made you sore using light weights. Only use about half the weight you did during your regular workout, and only do one set of about 10. This will keep your blood circulating and prevent cramping of your muscles during the repair stage. Your soreness should subside in about 3-5 days, depending on how sore you are.