The aches and pains you feel following a good workout are usually a sign that you've effectively exhausted your muscles. That's a good thing, unless the pain is so severe (and lasting) that it indicates an injury. Chances are, it's just the sweet ache of success, otherwise known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
What Causes DOMS?
The soreness that comes from a heavy workout is actually caused by microscopic tears in your muscles and connective tissue. These tears will heal naturally and the pain usually doesn't last long.
How Can I Treat Or Avoid DOMS?
Soreness usually can't be avoided if you've suddenly upped the intensity of your fitness regimen. However, it can be treated, and possibly avoided, by taking the following steps.
Before Your Workout
A good way to limit or avoid the soreness you feel after your workout is prevention. Prevention begins with steps taken before your workout.
1. Stretch - An extended warm-up and stretching routine before your workout prepares your body for the activity ahead and can reduce the effects of DOMS. Start with gentle dynamic stretches (which involve movement), then move into static movements (where you hold the stretch).
2. Cardio First - Never jump into a weight training workout without some type of warm-up first. Doing cardio first will effectively warm up your muscles. If you're doing a weights-only workout, incorporate brief cardio, such as jumping jacks or jump rope.
3. Water - Staying hydrated is vital before and during your workout to help decrease inflammation and reduce muscle soreness. Water is still the best choice for most exercisers.
After Your Workout
1. Add Ice - If you have access to an ice bath, jump in immediately after your workout because cold baths can significantly reduce muscle soreness. Or, simply apply ice yourself to affected areas.
2. Add Heat - Apply a heating pad or other heat source a few hours after your workout. This will stimulate blood flow and loosen sore muscles.
3. Add Fruit - Pineapple and tart cherries have been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits.
The Next Day
1. Use Them - Use the same muscles the day after your workout but in a non-resistant way.
2. Ice - Continue to apply ice to sore areas the next day. Icing decreases inflammation.
3. Massage - If you can't afford a professional massage, then use a massage stick or foam roller to help relax and stretch sore muscles.
Jump start your personal fitness by joining the Downtown Athletic Club in Amarillo. The DAC is a full-service club with professional trainers on staff.