Your workout doesn’t have to hurt to be good!
I worked out really hard with a buddy the other day. It was wonderful. I haven’t had a really hard workout since my surgery 6 months ago.
And so I should have suspected it.
After my Monday workout, Tuesday night my quads, butt and core were screaming at me.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
Those of us who work out know, love and embrace that post workout pain and stiffness as a badge of honor. A reward for work well done.
And while there is some truth to that, it is not the end all and be all.
Some people think that if they don’t get DOMS their workout was less than.
That’s Myth # 1
We often wear our DOMS as a badge of honor and believe that if we’re not sore, we’re not doing enough during out workouts. But that’s just not true.
DOMS is not a good measure of the effort or gains you’ve achieved from a good workout. There are too many other mitigating factors.
So relying on muscle soreness as a gauge for a quality workout is a false equivalency.
So what is DOMS
High-intensity exercise can cause tiny, microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. Your body responds to this damage by increasing inflammation, which may lead to a delayed onset of soreness in the muscles.
Pretty much any high-intensity exercise can cause DOMS, but one kind in particular, known as eccentric exercise, often triggers it.
Eccentric exercises cause you to tense a muscle at the same time you lengthen it.
For example, the controlled, downward motion as you straighten your forearm after a biceps curl is an eccentric movement. The way your quads tense up when running downhill is also an eccentric movement.
Under normal conditions and in normally healthy individuals, DOMS is nothing to be concerned about. It is the body’s process for growth and healing.
So Just Take it Easy and Rest It Out
That’s myth # 2
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.
At a minimum, you’ll want to skip any kind of high-intensity cardio or power lifting sessions when sore. That may only worsen and delay your recovery from DOMS.
Think about trying some gentle movement throughout the day. It won’t speed your recovery, but it might lessen the soreness. To keep your muscles moving, try gentle movement, mobility or some low- to moderate-intensity walking, cycling, or swimming.
Should I Take Something for It?
Myth # 3
Researchers have discovered that oral analgesics and NSAIDS do little if nothing to alleviate DOMS. In fact, there is mounting evidence that anti-inflammatory drugs can actually work against the inflammation/repair cycle of your muscles. Thus undoing some of that hard work you put in at the gym.
Perhaps the best medicine for muscle soreness (not surprisingly) is a good, anti-inflammatory diet of leafy green vegetables, fruits berries and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, for example).
We talk often about the importance of proper hydration and it certainly won’t hurt if you have a case of DOMS.
However, we used to think that DOMS was caused (at least in part) by a buildup of lactic acid and flushing with water would help. Modern science and current research debunks the lactic acid hypothesis. But plenty of water still goes a long way toward muscle repair and growth after a good workout.
Here’s the takeaway:
- You need need to experience DOMS to know you had a good workout
- Your best recovery is to keep moving with some active mobility, walking or light exercise
- Don’t think a pill will relieve the soreness (and it could just set you back)
- As with all our advice, eat a good, clean diet and drink lots of water
So go hit the gym and get a real good sweat on. If you get a little DOMS, OK. And if you don’t? Well, that’s OK, too!