Spend enough time walking among the downtrodden of spirit and the naysayers of discipline and you’ll hear such unattractive word hybrids as rest days, cheat days, or over training. To the trained ear, these words & phrases are on the same pitch & frequency as a high pitched wail or whine. If these words & phrases had any meaning at all, they’ve lost their potency through overuse & banalization.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, is gaining traction in these upper registers, and just as quickly losing steam in meaning. Usually associated with Squat Days, or Leg Workouts, there have been rumors of DOMS derailing an otherwise noble workout scheme for up to weeks at a time. We like to think of such stories as fictive, or at least belonging to a lonely 2am jukebox in some tear-stained corner, but no, this high pitched whine has infiltrated our everyday vernacular.
Muscle Soreness is a natural consequence of a sturdy workout. There are several contributing factors to the lingering, persistent nature of muscle soreness, immediate or delayed, and there are steps we can take to avoid or minimize the long-term hazardous potential for skipping our worthy & wanted workouts.
- Rest-- best performed at night. Sometimes known as sleeping. When we exercise, workout, or practice our muscle movements, the extra load we place on our bodies tears muscle fibers, which is a necessary first step for growth. Sleep is the best mode of recovery we have at our disposal. If you’re too sore for too long after a workout, your body likely isn’t adapting to the healing of ripped muscle fibers, which means your body needs more sleep. Best possible remedy: get more sleep. This is known as Passive Rest, and under normal circumstances, a good full night’s sleep is all the Passive Rest you need.
- Recovery Workouts-- usually referred to as Active Rest. Using Squats as our example, sometimes a good follow-up method to a good night’s sleep is to work the same muscle groups from a different angle. A light bicycle ride, a slow mind-cleansing run, or even a session of moderate rep, low-weight Squats will loosen up the clench factor in your legs after a particularly nasty day of heavy Squatting. It might be as simple as the need for a brisk walk. Whatever you do will work better than sitting in pain, waiting for that very pain to subside.
- Hydration/Nutrition-- this may be the most important aspect of healthy, quick recovery. Think of EMS, or Emergency Responders . . . the team of Hydration & Nutrition can’t do it all, but without them, your chances of success plummet towards failure. Your body is largely composed of water, so the need to rehydrate or stay hydrated rarely raises an argument. How you rehydrate is critical. Chugging down copious amounts of water once you’re hot, sweaty & exhausted does little more than create the loathsomely awkward Belly Slosh Syndrome. If you feel the water sloshing in your belly, it isn’t providing immediate relief to the cells that desperately need rehydrating. Instead, during periods of high intensity exercise, a few ounces of an electrolyte drink, such as Gatorade or Coconut Water, followed by good, clean water is the best, fastest, most effective approach. Likewise, the food you put in your body after the shock of a stout workout should consider nutritional value over that of taste. There’s no harm in having both, but nutrition should get the higher priority.
The goal of our exercises, workouts, and movement practices is Results. There are enough excuses out there in the big, old impolite world for skipping, missing, dismissing workouts that we shouldn’t need to contribute to the overabundance of such worldly impoliteness. Our bullet points should be considered as one big team, and even our most individual efforts should work towards playing well with that team.
Also, it is important to understand the experienced difference between soreness & pain. More often than not, soreness is symmetrical, as in you feel a general tightness or slight discomfort on both sides of your body, left & right, equally. Pain tends to be asymmetrical, as in you may feel it on one side of your body, but not the other. Soreness is balance and can be worked through with smarts and a mind for safety. Pain should be addressed with additional rest, and possibly, medical attention.
Get lots of sleep, stay active, and replenish what you spend.