It’s happened to everyone who trains – sometimes as late as 2 days after you worked out! Terrible, crippling muscle soreness that makes walking down the stairs a 5-minute trial.
Many times we’ll hear the question “how can I prevent soreness?” Let’s take a look first at what happens when you’re sore, and what you can do to treat it, or keep it from occurring in the first place.
What is muscle soreness?
There are a few different things that can happen WHILE we workout that feels like muscle soreness. One of them is a burning sensation that everyone who works out will be familiar with – if you’ve yet to be acquainted with this feeling, go do a wall sit for about a minute. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you.
Well, now that everyone knows what we’re talking about, let’s go over what’s happening when you get that burning sensation. During high-intensity exercise, your muscle cells consume oxygen faster than the body can supply it. When this happens, cells need to use ‘lactate’ to get energy instead, which doesn’t require oxygen. This is the different between exercises that are considered ‘aerobic,’ such as walking/jogging, lifting light weights, and ‘anaerobic,’ like sprinting or performing high-intensity weight-lifting. Anaerobic activities can only last for about 1 to 3 minutes, which is why we can’t sprint or hold a wall sit indefinitely.
Lactic acid build-up is responsible for that burning sensation during intense activity – the reason we can’t do that kind of activity for longer than about 3 minutes is because too much build-up would cause damage to the body. The desire to quit is a defense mechanism! However, lactic acid build-up does not take very long to get cleaned out; it is not the culprit for the soreness you feel for days after a hard workout.
DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
This is the most familiar of muscle pain – the kind that you feel and think ‘that was a good workout!’ While the severity of muscle soreness isn’t the only qualification of having had a good workout, times when you will feel it are:
- After trying a new activity or movement your body isn’t accustomed to.
- An extremely intense workout with little rest.
- When you don’t consume enough protein or eat at a caloric deficit.
- Be in good cardiovascular health.
- Take in sufficient protein post-workout.
- Taking an ice bath
- Applying heat
- Take at least a day in-between high-intensity workouts.
- Get enough sleep!
- Consider a recovery run.
- Foam Rolling / Massage / Active Release Techniques (ART)