Welcome to CrossFit! If you recently participated in your first functional fitness workout, I am very sure the words in the title at least crossed your mind.
Feeling extremely sore after a workout is VERY normal under certain circumstances and can be lessoned with time…. unfortunately it cannot always be completely prevented. Why would anyone choose this for himself or herself?!
Before I discuss the reasons that may cause post-workout soreness, you need to understand the process that your body goes through during exercise. When we introduce a mechanical demand on the body like fitness, immediately post-workout our body begins a process of tearing down the muscles that were used so it can rebuild them stronger and more prepared to handle a similar workload in the future.
This process causes what is referred to as DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
Sometimes DOMS can hit immediately following a workout. Other times DOMS can take 24-48 hours to hit after you completed the workout.
What causes DOMS and can I prevent it?
DOMS happens any time you change a variable in your fitness routine.
Learned a new exercise? = DOMS!
Systematically increased your volume of a movement? = DOMS!
Reintroduced an exercise you have not trained CONSISTENTLY in the past 6 weeks? = DOMS!
Worked out harder than usual? = Guaranteed DOMS!
DOMS are not bad. It is a sign that you did something great for yourself….worked out!
Now based on the conditions listed above, EVERYONE experiences DOMS whether you are new to fitness or a seasoned vet. The bad news is that as we get fitter, workouts don’t necessarily feel easier but you DO get stronger, fitter and faster!!!!
How do I prevent DOMS?
Honestly, you cannot totally prevent DOMS. DOMS are simply part of the process. What you CAN do is set yourself up to experience LESS DOMS. Here’s how…
How To Reduce Post-Workout Soreness:
- Workout REGULARLY. Sorry folks, working out 2 days / week does not fall under the category of a regular workout schedule. According to the American Council of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) recommendations, adults need 5-7 days / week of purposeful moderate to vigorous intensity exercise.
- Pay attention to technique. Learn how to move well first. When you confuse movement patterns, muscles that are supposed to act as stabilizes end up becoming prime movers. THIS can cause a whole lot of EXTRA soreness. Do NOT blame the tool. It was not the barbell’s fault your back is sore! Pay attention to good form. Listen for movement queues, respond and then ASK QUESTIONS. A good coach should be able to articulate what you should be feeling in any given movement. If you are not on the same page, be accountable and communicate with the coach.
- Add in LIGHT aerobic activity the next day. Low intensity walking, biking, swimming, rowing and Nordic skiing are all great options. Try to avoid impact sports like running (even on trail). This LIGHT activity will flush out most if not all of the exercise by-product built up the day before allowing you to move more freely and help get you excited for your next workout
- Follow a structured workout program that systematically increases volume and allows adequate rest between similar movements if you are working out on consecutive days.
- Sleep 8 hours per night while accumulating most of that sleep between 10pm and 2am. Without adequate sleep, you will NOT recover from your training sessions and your risk of injury will increase.
- Nail down your nutrition and PRIORITIZE eating whole foods. Nutrition is like sleep. Without getting your proper nutrition ratios (protein, carbs, fats), your body is essentially a ticking time bomb. You need to eat well in order to recover.
If you are new to fitness, keep fighting the good fight as A LOT of this activity will be VERY uncomfortable for a while. If you worked out on Monday, got super sore and waited until Friday or worst yet, til next week to work out…expect MORE DOMS to come!
If you have been working out consistently for a while and are still experiencing a significant amount of DOMS, take some time to reflect and ask if you are meeting all the criteria to decrease the severity of your DOMS. As we age, we actually need MORE movement rather than less. Don’t confuse this statement with a need to smash yourself every workout with high-intensity, but rather a need to do SOMETHING on most days to keep the gears lubricated, which will prevent you from getting rusty.
Remember, the secret is not LESS activity when you are sore (even though we want to curl up in a ball and hold our breath). Get some quality ZZzzzzs, eat well and increase your LIGHT aerobic activity.
In Good Health, Wellness and Improving our Fitness,