Although walking up (or down) the stairs after a leg day can be a strenuous task, there's nothing more painfully satisfying than having post-workout muscle soreness. There's a sense of accomplishment and validation that you've gotten the job done.
On the other hand, if you've ever wondered if your pain could possibly be an injury, you're not alone. Finally, once DOMS settles in, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.
Luckily, there are surefire ways to reassure your post-workout self that your pain comes solely from killing at the gym to knowing when it's time to do some RICE.
Here's Why You Get Sore Post-Workout Muscles
Movement and pain go hand in hand and are a completely normal occurrence after exercise. "When your muscles are sore after physical activity, it's known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS," explains Tony Horton, creator of Power Life and P90X. "It's very common and can occur when you start a new exercise program, change your exercise routine, or increase the duration or intensity of your regular exercise." He says.
So what is causing this pain so painful? Tiny tears in your muscle fibers. Sure, that might sound like an injury, but this process drives your fitness goals. "When muscles have to work harder or differently than they're used to, it causes tiny microscopic tears in the muscle fibers," says Horton. Because of this, pain is felt in the recently worked muscle groups. yet you remain injury-free.
“This process is actually a good thing; It means your muscles are growing," says Horton, and isn't that the goal? While all kinds of pain and stiffness come into play here, your body is working hard to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, making you stronger.
How "normal" muscle soreness feels and how long it can last
As you already know, there are different degrees of post-workout muscle soreness, ranging from mild tenderness to classic gym soreness. Horton explains that your muscles can feel sore, tight, and tender after a workout, and you can feel it in your joints, too.
"Moving around and lifting stuff can be a little hairy for a while, so listen to your body." He advises. And while it might be tempting to hit the gym and beat that pain, it's not always a good idea. “Don't force anything through pain; let your body rest,” says Horton. "The pain can last anywhere from one to four days, depending on how intense your activity is relative to what your muscles are used to and your body's natural ability to regenerate and repair muscle tissue," says Horton.
All that muscle swelling, tenderness, stiffness, pain - all of this can sound scary, but remember that this is the body's normal response to strenuous activity. "The key is to arm yourself with all the tools you need to repair and rebuild," says Horton
This includes proper nutrition with a quality protein source, adequate sleep, dynamic stretching, and plenty of rest between workouts that use the same major muscle groups. Groups (at least one full day off).
As you train more and more and change workouts to induce what Horton calls muscle confusion. "You'll find that periods of muscle soreness can be longer or shorter depending on how different or intense the workout is compared to what your muscles are used to," he says.
Skeletal muscle is a highly dynamic tissue that adapts to the increased movement and metabolic demands of exercise. This way they can deal with it, even if it hurts to get out of bed the next morning.
How to Recognize an Injury (and What to Do About It)
Our bodies do a good job of telling us when something needs attention. And when it comes to a possible exercise-related injury, there are a few telltale signs that take the guesswork (or pain, for that matter) out of the equation.
The D in DOMS stands for "delayed," meaning the pain is not instantaneous; You usually feel it the next day. "You can tell the difference between DOMS and a real injury if, for example, you pull a muscle and the pain is immediate, it's sharp, and it doesn't go away after a few days," says Horton. Put simply, there's a difference between the soothing pain you feel after a workout, where muscle soreness peaks hours after your workout, and the pain that's immediate and long-lasting.
"If an injury is the case, you should STOP all activity and get it checked out, or at least give it plenty of time to heal," he advises.
"The pain tells you something, so don't ignore it," he says. Again, it's best to stop all physical activity immediately. “Don't try to be a tough guy or girl and quit your workout; Putting pressure on an injury will only make it worse and keep you out for a long time," says Horton. Raise your hand if you've done just that in the past!
The number one thing Horton tells people is to listen to their body, if something doesn't feel right, stop it. "In addition, if you're injured, use ice to reduce swelling and inflammation, and rest to allow your muscles to heal," explains Horton.
And if the pain persists, get it checked out by a specialist. "If you feel like this might be something serious, don't let it last more than a few days," he says. It's better to be safe and give yourself some time and heal than to hit the gym and have to make more time later.
How to treat sore muscles
Stretching before and after a workout, and then pampering your muscles between workouts with modalities like massage increases blood flow to muscle groups and aids in the recovery of torn muscle tissue.
In addition, "alternating between ice and heat to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow in conjunction with certain natural compounds helps speed the recovery process," says Horton. In Horton's High Impact Protein, it contains an incredible compound called HMB, which helps your muscles synthesize protein better, as well as helping your muscles recover from physical activity faster, reducing your periods of muscle soreness.
Good to know:
An often overlooked aspect of sore muscles is simply basic body mechanics: what do you do when you're not working out? how is your posture When we sit for hours in front of the computer or stand in line at the supermarket, good posture keeps our spine healthy and also reduces the stress on our muscles, ligaments and joints, which helps limit pain.