Starting a new fitness routine can be a great lifestyle change with a multitude of positive benefits. However, after a particularly intense workout, normal daily tasks can seem to turn into your worst enemies. Whether it’s walking up the stairs, bending down to tie your shoes or helping a friend move boxes, it can feel like your muscles scream with each minor exertion.
Although it may feel like it, no, you haven’t torn anything. You’re just experiencing D.O.M.S or delayed onset muscle soreness; the scientific term for the pain we feel after a hardcore new exercise. More commonly known as muscle fever, D.O.M.S presents itself as severe soreness in muscles coupled with swelling, stiffness, cramping and tenderness due to microscopic tears that form. The main indicator that you’re going through it is when the pain reaches its peak at or up to 72 hours after the workout, hence the “delayed” portion of the name.
Because the pain can reach near unbearable levels, I’ve seen many clients discouraged by it, who then choose to quit too early into their fitness journey. While this may seem like the only way to let your body heal, there are other methods of recovery that will allow you to stay active and work through the discomfort.
Get enough sleep
The first step seems trivial, but it is arguably the most important. After putting your body under serious pressure from working out, it is expected to enter a slight state of shock. During sleep, your muscles slowly get to work trying to repair the tears that happened in your training. This is why getting the recommended eight plus hours of shut eye allows your body to do what it needs to do to make sure that the tissue is properly healing and growing.
This may seem contradictory, but keeping your muscles active can help speed up the recovery process even more. The key here is to keep your activity light but constant. Take a few breaks in your day to walk, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Additionally, add a few yoga stretches into your morning and nighttime routines. Doing these can relieve some of the tension your muscles are experiencing from to painful contractions. Wait until the pain has subsided to a manageable level before attempting to do a full workout. Keep the intensity levels of your moves in a normal range and stop if you feel any tightness returning.
Play with temperature
An ice bath may be out of the question, but introducing sporadic cold showers the week after an intense workout can help calm the inflammation in your body. If isolated muscle groups, like your thighs or arms, are especially hurting, heating pads can help. Increasing the temperature to the area also increases blood flow, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the area.
Overall, listen to your body and give it what it needs. Starting a new workout routine can take a few weeks to get accustomed to, but don’t let D.O.M.S stop you from reaching your goals. Make sure to acknowledge your limits while training and take extra care in the recovery process so you can move forward.
Written by: Adam Maielua, The Body Lab
Adam Maielua was born in Seoul, Korea, and spent early childhood traveling the Pacific Rim with his military family before settling in the states. He obtained three college degrees while launching his career in corporate America. From finance to pharmaceuticals, Adam worked for over a decade without losing focus of his passions. Then came his leap of faith. Leaving behind that world, Adam now spends his days fostering environments to promote self-awareness and encourage self-change. Adam is currently lead trainer at The Body Lab. Visit them online for more information.