HOW TO MINIMIZE YOUR SORE SO YOU CAN MAXIMIZE YOUR GAINS
We all know the feeling - morning after a tough workout, you sit up in bed and actually feel your abs making moves. You walk to the kitchen and feel your hamstrings, reach into a cabinet and notice your lats working… We call this a good-sore. You know, the kind of sore where you feel like you put really solid effort into your gym sesh and can go right into round 2.
But how can you tell if your soreness is a little over the top? Let’s talk about good/bad soreness and how to minimize it.
DOMS vs. Rhabdo
Let’s talk nerdy for a sec: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and Rhabdomyolysis.
Rhabdomyolyis is critical muscle damage from overexertion or trauma. Basically, you can cause too much damage to your muscles too quickly for your body to cope, and this can lead to kidney damage [this is rare btw].
Beyond soreness, symptoms include muscle swelling and dark urine. You also want to be on the lookout for signs of dehydration. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should get to a doctor ASAP. Again, it’s likely you’ll never experience this condition, and staying well-hydrated will also minimize your risk.
What you are FAR more likely to experience, however, is DOMS.
If you’re a little sore the day after a workout, and then 2 or 3 days out it gets more intense, you’re experiencing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
DOMS happens when you’ve caused muscle tearing and damage. Don’t let the words tearing and damage freak you out, though - muscle damage is literally what lifting weights for gains is supposed to do so that your body can build your muscle mass to compensate for the added weight.
DOMS usually happens when you go too hard from the start and haven’t worked out in a long time (or ever) - or even sometimes with experienced lifters after a few weeks off. Generally, you’ll start to feel the soreness coming on after about 8-12 hours, with its peak on day 2 or 3.
You can reduce your chances of experiencing DOMS by slowly progressing into a new fitness program or easing into restarting after a week+ break. Hydration, warming up, foam rolling, and a good post-workout cool down routine can help reduce muscle soreness.
SO, what can you do when you’re sore?
We’ve put together a few action items for you based on your soreness level:
GREEN LIGHT SORENESS:
If your soreness/stiffness is below a 4/10 on the discomfort/pain scale, go ahead and get your next workout in. Warming up your body in the gym can also be a good way of keeping you loose and moving and teaching your muscles to adapt to the soreness.
YELLOW LIGHT SORENESS:
Between a 4/10 and a 7/10: Yesterday was leg day; today is “take the escalator” day. This is DOMS, and it’s all good; you just went a little too hard and need to take a breather, use a massage gun, and drink lots of water. If your next workout is coming up soon you can:
- Modify to train accessory work (specific body parts/muscles rather than compound exercises like deadlifts), OR
- Rearrange your workouts for the week and get some active recovery in, like LISS (check out our blog on HIIT & LISS), yoga/Pilates, and foam rolling.
RED LIGHT SORENESS:
An 8/10 or above: You know your body best - if your soreness seems debilitating or you are experiencing additional issues, we suggest you get it checked out ASAP and/or call your doctor’s office for their advice. Definitely don’t push yourself to take on more - even if you’ll be fine without medical attention, pushing too hard can lead to injuries that will keep you off the floor even longer.
How can you reduce or prevent soreness?
- Dynamic stretching before a workout
- Warming up fully
- Strategically incorporating some gentle movement after you’ve racked your weights (like 10 mins of slooooow treadmill)
- Static stretching/foam rolling post workout.
These are all simple hacks to reduce your soreness post-workout and keep you coming back to the gym to keep you working towards your goals.
I’ll be adding new warm up/cool down content to the app soon, so stay tuned!
Finally, remember that “no pain, no gain” is not a phrase to take literally.
If you need to take multiple days of rest between gym sessions because you’re too sore to safely lift or possibly even to move around, take it down a notch. Crush your workout; don’t let it crush you.
Until next time, babes! Remember: consistency is key. Rest when you need to, and eat that protein.