You have just gotten back from a 6-hour hike, complete with some grueling escalation. “It was a great workout!” You think to yourself, “so why am I not sore?” Many of us look forward to being sore, as a telltale sign of our hard work.
Do not worry, the soreness is likely to come. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and it is common to feel the height of the soreness 24-48 hours after a workout! This is a completely normal process that is necessary for the muscles to rebuild themselves. Before anyone is too discouraged by the pain and stiffness to keep up with their workouts, here’s what you need to know:
DOMS is the result of tiny, microscopic tears in your muscle fibers and the connective tissue that surrounds it. These tears occur during eccentric exercise, where muscle fibers are being lengthened. Eccentric movement is performed daily, whether by lowering a barbell in a biceps curl or lowering your baby down for bed. The severity of DOMS will decrease once the body adapts to the intensity. Your body will strengthen to accommodate the certain number of sets/reps you’ve been doing at a consistent resistance. Just one exercise can help prime your body for the next exercise and you will find yourself much less sore the next time. To get stronger, however, the intensity must be increased and DOMS will likely occur again.
Learn to listen to your body. Soreness does not equate to ALL pain. Though a great workout will yield soreness – a sign that your muscles are getting stronger- rest days are just as important. While overloading your muscles is necessary for improvement, there is such thing as a tipping point. If a dull pain becomes sharp, shooting pain – you have already gone too far. It may be tempting to push through the pain, but eventually more harm than good will be done and you will be wishing you gave your body that extra day to recover.
By Todd Sparks PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS