Muscle soreness, sometimes referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS), is a common feature of exercise and affects the novice and experienced alike. DOMS is often mild in its severity and the degree to which it impacts day-to-day activities. However, it can, at times, be quite intense and limiting. I believe just about everyone has experienced the difficulty of climbing up a set of stairs after a grueling lower body workout. What steps can be taken to mitigate severe muscle soreness? Below are a few simple tips you can apply today!
Training. DOMS is often caused by a sudden and large change in training intensity and volume. That’s why 5x5 back squats won’t make you nearly as sore as 100 goblet squats in a faster paced conditioning workout. Especially if you are new to exercise, it is important to gradually increase volume and intensity. Not only will this reduce the severity of any subsequent muscle soreness, it will reduce the risk of injury.
Nutrition. During exercise, tiny tears are made in our muscles and connective tissues. This damage triggers the inflammatory response, which produces muscle growth. Drinking plenty of water, eating antioxidant rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, and consuming enough protein ensures our body has the resources it needs to recover adequately and can reduce the sensation of soreness.
Recovery. When we are extremely sore, the last thing we feel like doing is moving. However, physical activity increases blood flow and body temperature, which helps to restore the pliability of muscle and connective tissues and reduces muscle soreness. The next time you can barely sit down on the toilet, instead of taking the day off, try a recovery workout. This could be 15-30 minutes on a machine or a walk outside. Keep the intensity low to moderate and break a sweat and you’ll be good to go!
For the most part, muscle soreness is a welcome feeling. It’s a tangible signal that our hard work is producing a positive change. Sometimes, though, it’s a bit excessive and calls for some TLC. Being intentional and purposeful with your training, nutrition, and recovery will reduce muscle soreness and the risk of injury.