Dealing with Post-Workout Soreness

Originally Featured on 5/29/2013

Q. Should I feel sore after every workout?
A. If you've ever tried a new fitness class or workout routine and were left unable to reach the top cabinet, or walk down the stairs the next day without wincing, then you've experienced the wrath of DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness.

DOMS peaks 24-78 hours after exercise. It's hypothesized that this soreness is due to tiny microscopic tears in the muscle that typically result from an unaccustomed change in exercise intensity, duration, type, load, or selection. What does this mean? New challenges are more likely to make you sore. DOMS starts to lessen as your body adapts and becomes familiar with the new demands placed upon it. However, what this doesn't mean is that you need to feel this tenderness after each workout.

Soreness is not an indicator of the quality of your workouts, or the progress your body is making, and continued soreness can even prompt you to workout less frequently. Muscle strength or hypertrophy gains can be made with or without this feeling. Although, soreness can be an indicator of how well you're recovering.

If I had a client who was continually sore after each workout without major changes to their routine, I might start asking questions about the quality of their sleep and diet, or scale back the difficulty of their program.

If you are experiencing DOMS, what can help you feel better is some light activity such as walking, foam rolling, massage, or stretching.