Everyone dreads the aching, sore muscles we get in the days following our workouts. So why exactly do we experience this soreness and what can we do to minimize it? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the main culprit. When your muscles have to work harder, or in a different way than they are used to, micro tears form causing damage to the muscles. You will usually start to feel the effects of DOMS as early as 6-8 hours and as late 48 hours, with the potential to last up to a week.
Muscle soreness following physical activity was originally believed to be a buildup of lactic acid. Researchers have now discovered that this is not the case. They found that lactic acid is quickly eliminated from your body shortly after, possibly even during, your workout. We now know that the damage done to the connective and muscle tissues is the cause of muscle soreness rather than lactic acid. You can think of your muscles as strands of rope.
Muscles, much like rope, will start to break or tear when they are pulled past the point in which they were designed for. When your muscles are being pulled apart during a movement it is known as an eccentric muscle contraction; this could include walking down a hill, lowering weights, and the downward phase of a push-up, squat, or pull-up. Unlike rope, however, your muscles can rebuild bigger and better than before while also adapting. This is important so that when the same movement is performed or the same amount of weight is lifted, the muscles won’t break.
So how do we get rid of the soreness and get back to our workouts quicker? There are many ways that you can speed up the recovery process. One of the best ways to recover from a workout is to do some light exercise the day after. This might seem counter intuitive but when your muscles are sore you must increase blood flow to promote healing. Some examples of great off-day activities include walking, jogging, swimming, light hiking, and yoga. Other ways to combat soreness: eating and/or drinking more protein, increasing water intake, getting quality sleep, and taking Epsom salt baths. For more information on recovering faster checkout my previous article: Recovering Faster and More Efficiently