Immediately after an intense workout there’s a good chance you’ll feel a general sense of fatigue – but, you’ll probably also feel empowered and strong. While enjoying this sense of post-workout bliss, it might be hard to believe that your muscles could be so sore when you wake up the next day, that you may find it hard to get out of bed!
As it turns out, muscle training is not an instant process, so it can have a somewhat slow feedback loop when it comes to soreness. Delayed onset muscle soreness, also known as DOMS, is an odd sensation, because it peaks at about 24-48 hours after a workout. The reason for this is that muscle tissue experiences microtrauma, or very small tears, during muscle-strengthening workouts that allow it to rebuild and become stronger over time. It’s not until your body begins the repair process that you start to feel the impact of your workout.
Keep reading to learn more about what is happening to your body when you experience fitness-related muscle soreness and how you can work out smarter.
Muscles adapt to new levels of activity
Typically, soreness is worst when you begin a new workout routine, add intensity to your existing workout, or start training different muscle groups. That’s because your muscles need to adapt to the higher level of activity and the microtrauma that comes with it, so the repair process takes longer at first. As you continue to train, you might notice that you become less sore after your daily workouts. Don’t let this discourage you; you don’t necessarily have to be physically incapacitated the next day to have achieved a great workout.
Post-workout soreness can vary from person to person
Not only can your current level of physical fitness affect how sore you feel the day after a workout, but you might have a different baseline for this discomfort, because everyone is a little different. Some people will inevitably feel very sore after every workout as high-responders, while low-responders might only have mild soreness – even with a new training routine. That’s why it is important to know your body and look out for warning signs that you’re pushing yourself too hard.
To reduce soreness that is within your normal threshold, you should cool down after strength training with moderate cardio to promote blood circulation. Post-workout massage or use of a foam roller in extra sensitive areas can also be helpful, but remember to work with a professional trainer or massage therapist to make sure that you do not damage your muscles through these recovery methods. Finally, you can reduce soreness with natural anti-inflammatories like dark cherry juice and high-protein snacks to feed muscle tissues.
Soreness can signal something more serious
It is important to know when soreness is the sign of an injury rather than the natural response of your muscles. If you feel sore for more than 72 hours after a workout, you might have muscle strain that should be addressed by a doctor. During your workout, any aching in the joints or muscle failure should be a red flag that prompts you to stop a certain activity. You might, however, feel your muscles burning, because your cells naturally become more acidic when you are using more energy to get through a tough workout.
To find a balance between feeling the burn and overworking your muscles, consult a MeMD physician before beginning any new workout routine. Our doctors can also help you resolve existing body aches and minor injuries all from the comfort of your home with convenient online medical exams available on your schedule.