When I first started learning how to drive stick, I would plot my route to avoid hills. After a workout at Steve Nash Fitness Club, I plot my route to avoid taking the stairs. For me, the muscle soreness after a workout has always felt like a welcomed discomfort, and one that signifies progression. Yes, brushing my teeth feels like flexing and laughing has become a selective process (“is this joke worth the clenched abs?”) but the ache is a reminder that I’m adapting to my fitness regimen.
I’ve learned that the soreness I feel up to 48 hours after a workout is referred to as DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – a result of physical activity that stresses the muscle tissue beyond what it is accustomed to.
It’s also entirely worth it. Movement has begun to feel necessary, even if accompanied by groans. I have learned that I would much rather be in motion, than remain stagnant. I would rather feel pain from a body that is getting stronger than one that is falling apart.
While there is no magic panacea for avoiding the soreness, there are a few things I’ve done to help minimize its severity and ensure I remain a functioning member of society:
Feeling hot and cold
Living in Vancouver already feels like a constant state of switching between hot and cold: bolting through the rain into a warm coffee shop, feeling sweaty and shedding layers, only to head back out into the tsunami shortly after. When my muscles are sore, I try to be more deliberate when alternating between hot and cold flashes. I like to apply a bag of frozen veggies on my sore legs for about fifteen minutes, followed by a heating pad for another fifteen. Followed by a nap.
When muscles are recovering, they tend to tighten up. Slow stretching, hot yoga, and waking up a few minutes earlier to give my body permission to move at a slower pace, have all diffused the pain.
Not only do you get to check out your progress while you lather, but a warm bath improves circulation and loosens up aching muscles.
While your body is adapting to the increase in exercise, take it easy for a few days or try some light exercise like walking. Keeping your muscle moving will train both your body and mind to push through the pain.