You’re laying in bed, it’s two days after rigorous exercise and you have to get up for work.
We have all been here before..
First, you roll round a little and see if movement will even be possible today.
Secondly, you attempt sitting up and putting your feet on the floor.
Thirdly, you try to sit up but NOPE your muscles don’t even work, they are painful, tight and something actually feels broken! You fall back into bed and contemplate why you even trained in the first place.
..and let’s not even get started on how incapable you are of using a toilet two days after leg day.
This pain you’re feeling or have felt before is referred to as DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. The lengthening and shortening of muscle fibres under different types of resistance (training) causes microtrauma to the muscles used. This is essentially ‘damaging’ the muscle fibres but as we recover they come back/heal stronger, therefore your strength improves or you become ‘fitter’, depending on the training stimulus.
3 things you must know before reading on:
- 1. DOMS usually begins 1-2 days after the particular training session
- We usually suffer from DOMS after our ‘first session back in awhile’, a new program or simply exercise that’s totally different or harder than what we are used to
- You can never completely evade DOMS but you can reduce the pain and stiffness, A LOT!
So, how do you start feeling less sore from exercise?
The first step actually starts well BEFORE exercise and it may take some time.. But it’s well worth it!
If you are unable to touch your toes, then your hamstrings, calves, glutes, lower back, quads..aren’t in good condition. If you were to examine those muscle fibres under a microscope they would be tired, messy and a little rough around the edges. The same goes for any other movement you experience discomfort or know that shouldn’t be so difficult. (i.e standing up from a lying or seated position, tying your shoelaces)
If your muscles are not in good condition, you can not expect them to deal with tough exercise very well.
Imagine racing a car that hasn’t been serviced in 5 years VS a car that has had regular tune ups and maintenance every 6 months. Same make, model, year.. there would be a clear winner. But the car with regular tune ups doesn’t just win the race, it finishes the race, continues driving and will most likely be able to race the very next day. Now the car without regular tune ups.. Well due to it’s poor condition it could quite possibly blow a casket, fall apart at the finish line or require some SERIOUS tune ups for it to even consider racing again.
How do you ‘service’ your muscles?
Focus on mobility and the overall condition of your muscles every day for at least 3-4 weeks. Focus on the depth of your squat as opposed to how many kilograms you have on the bar. Focus on being able to put your arms straight above your head with your elbows touching your ears before committing to 100 push ups every night. Perform hip mobility exercises before bed if you sit down longer than 3 hours a day.
After achieving proper mobility and function all you need to do is maintain your new found freedom with a few mobility exercises and appropriate stretching after exercise.
Okay so step one will require some time.. Step two though, can be implemented straight away!
The state of our muscles before exercise directly correlates with the state of our muscles after exercise. If you are well rested, well hydrated (muscles need water) and are not sore/tight already, you can imagine that your muscles will have a better chance ‘surviving’ any type of exercise and pulling up better than average the next day.
So, step two = preparation.
Drink more water, get a good night’s sleep and stretch your tight muscles before bed tonight.
Step three is also very easy to implement but very rarely is it done properly.. let alone being done at all!
As I said earlier, after exercise our muscles are essentially ‘damaged’.
If your car was damaged, you would take it to the shop and get it fixed. If you dropped and damaged your smartphone or laptop, you would take it somewhere and hopefully get it fixed. If you damaged your body or somebody else’s, you or that person does something about it.
Your muscles are no different, you want to treat them with a little TLC and do something to help them get better. The quality of your recovery directly correlates with your improvement following exercise. Crappy or meagre recovery = crappy or meagre results.
So after your next session, rigorous or not, try the following..
Foam Rolling: Using a foam roller to ‘massage’ your muscles and fascia is a great way to reduce tension and clean up the mess that your muscles have become. This will reduce the amount of pain almost instantly but unfortunately not forever.
Mobility exercises: As mentioned above, if your muscles are able to move well, your recovery will be better and faster. Choose exercises that are specific to your needs or to that of the exercise.
Stretching: Post exercise stretching has been around for 100s of years and yet still people struggle to grasp the concept and importance of it. Again, choose exercises that are specific to your needs or to that of the exercise.
If you have time to train, you have time to do the above. If you do not do any of the above, your progress will be painfully slow. Remember; meagre recovery = meagre results.
Example break down: Warm up 5-15 minutes, Exercise 45-60 minutes, Recovery 5-15 minutes.
So, start your journey to less DOMS today. Life is too short to be unfit, unhealthy or less mobile than a barbell.. But it is also way too short to be in pain 24/7.
Take action, take care.
Tristan M. Forbes