Starting and sustaining a fitness journey can be challenging. Finding time to set your goals and finding the motivation to act on them is hard enough. Add muscle soreness into the mix, and this can be discouraging in keeping up with a workout routine. REBEL surveyed over 700 of their users, and 97% said they have experienced muscle soreness after a workout. To answer questions about soreness and recovery, REBEL asked in-house Physical Therapist Josh Manoharan to break down the basics and share some tips.
According to him, feeling sore after a workout is a sign that we have used our muscles beyond how we normally would on a daily basis. This can in fact be a good sign because it means we’ve challenged our body enough. After a good workout, the body sends blood with building blocks of protein to restore the recovering muscles. The soreness should then disappear within 48 hours, or else it may be a sign of something more serious.
But not all muscle soreness are the same. They can be further classified into two types: Acute Muscle Soreness and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
Acute Muscle Soreness is when it may be caused by a buildup of lactic acid in the muscles or muscle fatigue, wherein the muscles tire and cannot contract anymore. This type of muscle soreness can resolve itself with enough rest and some stretches.
While the symptoms for DOMS usually peak at 24-72 hours after working out. It stems from microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, as well as in its surrounding connective tissues. This usually happens after you work your muscles in a way they aren’t used to, whether it be through new movements, higher intensities, or heavier loads. The soreness usually lasts between two to five days after the onset of symptoms and can be soothed by moving even on your rest days and using foam rollers and topical pain relief treatments, among others.
Here are 5 tried-and-tested tips for muscle soreness and recovery:
- Sleep: This may just about be the single most important "tool" for recovery. Getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep consistently is the surest way to give your body the rest it needs.
- Proper warm-up and cool down: Warming up prepares our bodies to take on the impact it’s about to go through while cooling down relaxes our bodies and lets our system slowly go back to its normal state.
- Sufficient hydration & nutrition: Dehydration can aggravate muscle and joint pain, slow down the rate of healing, and even add to the risk of injury. Staying hydrated keeps discs between the vertebrae lubricated, and hinders muscles, ligaments, and tendons from becoming stiff and tight. Of course, don’t forget to make sure you fuel your body with the right mix of protein & carbohydrates to aid the recovery process.
- Cold baths or showers: This is a great way to soothe sore muscles after an intense workout. It makes the body feel good, as the regenerative properties of cold water can help relax and even repair muscles after strenuous exercise.
- Constant movement and practice: Doing a new movement more and more lets the body get used to it, and stopping just risks soreness again in the event of another attempt. While practice makes progress, knowing when to rest is important too.
Remember: there is a difference between muscle soreness and injury. Muscle soreness feels more like a slight stinging sensation, versus injuries that feel more like shooting, nagging pains, or even a pinched sensation. If the soreness disappears within two days after working out, then there’s no need to worry. If it persists, consider reaching out to a qualified professional. While soreness can be a good indicator for those who want to continually progress, it’s important to not push too hard, as this may eventually lead to injuries.