You wake up, get out of bed, and feel it. The soreness continues as you use the bathroom, get ready for the day, and sit into your car. Ever been there? A day or two after working out for the first time in a while, or even after trying a new workout, the soreness is there to remind you of your effort. But what exactly is it?
DOMS… Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. One of the big myths about DOMS is that it’s caused from a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. In reality, lactic acid buffers out of the muscle in minutes and has no relation to DOMS. The soreness you are experiencing is actually microscopic tears in the muscle. DOMS is just an indication that you caused mechanical damage to your muscle fibers. And this is a good thing! It means your muscles were worked; and now, they will have to repair themselves to come back even stronger to handle the workload. So that soreness is a good reminder, it serves to let you know that you challenged yourself, and you will be stronger for it.
A word of caution - too much of a good thing can be bad. You don’t want to be (and should not be) sore following every single workout. This can be a marker of overtraining. Overtraining isn’t just something that elite/professional athletes need to worry about. Overly eager beginners can suffer from overtraining by going too fast, too soon, too often.
A couple last facts regarding DOMS:
It is at its peak 48-72 hours after exercising
Stretching immediately after exercise will help reduce the intensity of soreness
Eccentric exercise/movement is what leads to DOMS (more on the truly amazing benefits of eccentric training later). Eccentric is the stretching/lowering phase of an exercise (ie the sitting down phase of a squat or lowering yourself to the floor during a push-up or sit-up).
After a week or two of consistent exercise, soreness related to DOMS will dissipate. Then following your bouts of exercise, you will be left with that tired-but-happy feeling of accomplishment minus the deep soreness. So consistency is the key to beating DOMS. Be gradual as you ramp up…frequency before intensity and you will be well on your way.
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