Muscle Soreness From Exercise

Now we might find that some of us experience muscle soreness from time to time, and it's also worth remembering that it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Broadly speaking, it falls into two categories:

Acute Muscle Soreness (AMS) & Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Acute muscle soreness is that burning sensation you feel in a muscle during a workout due to a quick build-up of lactic acid. It usually disappears as soon as or shortly after you stop exercising. Generally speaking, this is a good thing (although not particularly pleasant) and you should be feeling this at the end of every exercise, as we are trying to fatigue the muscle when we work it. This burning sensation shows that we have depleted the energy stored in the muscle (glycogen). This is how we get the best muscle growth (for toning) and therefore increase our metabolic rate to burn calories (for slimming).

Now Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is slightly different, and there is a good chance many of you will have experienced DOMS, even if you don't know what it is.

This is that incredibly stiff feeling in your muscles that you might feel a while after a workout. Typically, this occurs 12-24 hours after we finish the activity. It doesn't just happen after exercise, it could be after a day of hard gardening, moving furniture or any activity that uses your muscles a lot, that your body might not be used to. It's also worth noting that this is different from the type of soreness you might feel whilst doing a strenuous activity (like exercise).

Symptoms of DOMS to watch out for may include:

  • muscles that feel tender to the touch

  • reduced range of motion due to pain and stiffness when moving

  • swelling in the affected muscles

  • muscle fatigue

  • short-term loss of muscle strength

What causes DOMS?

Basically DOMS is caused when we do exercise, we create tiny tears in our muscle fibre, which your body then responds to by increasing inflammation, and building the muscle more than it was before the tear happened. This is your body repairing itself, and the muscle fibre growing - which is ultimately what we want to achieve!

So is DOMS a sign of a ‘good’ workout? Some people think that unless you feel super sore after every workout, you’re not making any fitness gains. But is this true? No. When you start a new exercise routine or push your limits, you’re more likely to get sore. But as you keep working out, your body adapts. You may feel less and less sore with each workout, but that in no way means you’re not working out hard enough or that you’re missing out on fitness gains from those workouts.

Keep moving to ease sore, stiff muscles You might be tempted to rest and avoid all exercise and movement when DOMS strikes, but unless it’s severe, hitting the couch for the day may only worsen pain and stiffness, not ease it. Listen to your body. If your DOMS is bad, you may need to take a day of complete rest to give your muscles a chance to repair. This is why we recommend trying to space your workouts throughout the week. At a minimum, you’ll want to skip any kind of high-intensity exercise when sore. That may only worsen and delay your recovery from DOMS. However, think about trying some gentle movement throughout the day. It won’t speed your recovery, but it might lessen the soreness.

How can I treat DOMS?

The soreness should subside in 24-48 hours, so don't panic if you are feeling stiff the day after a hard workout session, The most important one is to refuel your body with some protein! Protein is what your body uses to build muscle, so making sure that you have a good supply of protein is the best way to get you back on track.

Thankfully, gone are the days of knocking back raw eggs straight from the shell! I like to drink a protein shake (they aren't just for body-builders!) straight after a workout. They are inexpensive, easy to find and readily available. There are also plenty of tasty flavours available too. You will get a dose of high quality protein, and mixing with water will keep you hydrated too. The other benefit is that it will tackle any hunger you might be feeling straight after a session too, and stop you from undoing the good work you have just accomplished! There are also plenty of protein bars available too, but just be aware of the calorie content, as many tend to cover them in chocolate or sugar! If you don't fancy something from a packet, I always thing that a chicken salad sandwich is the ideal post-workout snack. Protein from the chicken (fat removed) carbs from the bread (wholemeal is best) and some good nutrition and hydration from the salad - just go easy on the dressings that can be loaded with calories.

There are a few other things we can do to ease the effects:

  • A 2016 study found that a 10- to 15-minute full-body immersion in a cold water bath (50–59°F or 10–15°C) lessened the degree of DOMS.

  • Does an ice bath sound extreme? Try a soak in a warm tub, instead. Moist heat wraps or a warm bath may also ease the pain and stiffness that come with DOMS.

  • Massage - Doesn't need to be an expensive spa day, simply rubbing oil or moisturiser into particularly sore areas for 15 minutes can help. (although a massage in our beauty salons is something everyone should experience!)

  • Using a foam roller or tennis ball to work out knots and painful areas can make a big difference too.

So in conclusion, muscle soreness, whilst it might not be very pleasant is not always a bad thing. I always recommend listening to your body and recognising the difference between discomfort and pain. Pushing our boundaries once in a while can bring fantastic results. If you are in doubt or need some guidance, please come and speak to a member of the team at Fitness In Time!

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