I remember it like it was yesterday…
Being 16 and squatting down to pick up my books out of my high school gym locker and screaming in agony because my legs were so damn sore from my very FIRST leg workout!
But pain soon turned to laughs as I also heard my best friend and training partner at the time scream out profanities as he tried to bend down at his locker just down the hall.
Luckily back then I could lay around the house for days and play Super Mario Bros. until the soreness was gone.
Now being a busy dad and husband in my thirties, I don’t have the luxury of beating my body into the ground and waiting around until it’s time to do it again… nor do I want to.
I can just imagine asking my wife to pick up my baby daughter off the floor or shovel the driveway because I am too sore to bend over!
So whether you’re a long time lifter or a New Year newbie, we will all experience this one time or another; the painful muscle soreness that follows an intense workout or what the exercise geeks (me included) refer to as DOMS.
It is also one of the biggest reasons that beginners quit their exercise routine before they even get started because of the soreness following their first workout.
For the best way to relieve, or better yet, even prevent muscle soreness, read on.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
This can occur whether you have been working out for years or are just starting to exercise.
It usually sets in the following day but actually is even worse the second day, as it peaks 48 hours after exercise.
Basically its the microscopic damage of your muscle fibers that causes the inflammation and swelling of the muscles putting additional pressure around the surrounding joints.
Unfortunately, so many guys think that not being able to lift your arms after an arm workout the next day means you really got a great workout and the results are sure to follow.
Yes, it does indicate that you did breakdown muscle tissue which is the start of the muscle building process, but soreness isn’t the indicator that you should use to grade your workouts.
I could punch you in the arm a hundred times and you would be sore the next day but it wouldn’t give you 21 inch pythons…
The best way to track your progress in your workouts is in your performance. Aim for breaking your own personal records each workout by lifting one more rep or lifting one more pound than the previous workout and your fitness level will improve. That’s why a workout journal is a must if you’re serious about making progress.
But I bet what you really what to know is how to avoid soreness or even relieve muscle soreness when you do get it.
It is January, after all, and we are all eager to be fitter and not fatter in 2010.
1. To prevent it, try not to do too much too soon, and ease into any exercise program, whether it’s lifting weights, running, or your favorite recreational sport. Whatever workout routine you are starting, just do half of the exercise volume the first week to introduce your muscles to the exercises.
2. Warmup properly BEFORE you workout and stretch AFTER you workout to remove the lactic acid from your muscles and start the recovery process.
3. Also take rest days from your workouts which means don’t work those same sore muscles with hard training until the soreness subsides. Get some “active rest” by going for a walk with your family or playing with your kids in the yard (lying on the couch watching CSI is not considered active rest!).
4. Make sure you are eating high quality protein throughout the day to provide your body with the nutrients it needs for muscle repair and stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
5. Contrast showers of hot and cold have been shown to aid in muscle recovery (two minutes hot, followed by 30 seconds cold repeated two-four times).
6. Getting lots of healthy fats in your diet through fish oils, mixed nuts, seeds, avocados and grass fed meat will also help to scavenge free radicals and reduce inflammation in your muscles and throughout your entire body
These recovery tips all help but…
7. The best way to relieve muscle soreness is to MOVE. Despite the initial discomfort of moving your sore muscles, getting around and increasing your blood flow will help to nourish the damaged muscles with nutrient rich blood to aid in muscle repair.
Light recreational exercise such as power walking, swimming, and even bodyweight exercises are a great way to loosen up those sore muscles and get you moving again.
So before you start piling on the plates, remember you can’t rush progress. Be smart with your workouts and give your body the time it needs and it will reward you with the results you’re looking for… or you can tough it out and walk around funny like the kids in “skinny jeans”… the choice is yours.
Image credit: RRRuslan
Sean Barker is a busy dad who finds time for family, fitness and fun. He likes pumping iron as well as producing it, as a heavy equipment
operator in the iron ore mines. He is ALSO a nationally certified personal trainer who writes for Fit Parent and Inside Fitness magazines and is the author of The Dad Fitness System at www.DadFitness.com. Sean also has a Dad Fitness Blog with tips, thoughts, and humor on being a fit dad at DadFitnessBlog.com.