Had a particularly tough training session that has left your muscles screaming at you each time you move? Wondering just how long your should wait before your muscles will be okay to exercise again?
Before we cover how long you should wait, let’s have a quick look at what is going on to cause the pain in the first place:
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or (DOMs) is something that most exercise enthusiasts will experience in their lives, most commonly after starting a new type of exercise or simply training much harder or for a lot longer than you are used to.
The pain you experience is due to microscopic tears (often referred to as micro trauma) you have created in your muscles fibres and it usually sets in within 12 - 48 hours after the damage has been done. Don’t worry too much though, because with the right nutrition and adequate sleep your body will be working to rebuild and repair your muscle fibres so that they are even stronger and more resilient than before!
DOMs can vary in severity, however, regardless of the pain levels, it is an indication that there is damage and that the damage needs to be repaired. In order to repair the damaged muscles, you need to allow them to rest.
It is important to first determine whether the pain you are experiencing is DOMs, or an indication of more serious damage, such as a strain or tendinitis. A good way to know for sure is to assess whether the pain is a muscle ache or more of a sharp pain, whether there is any discoloration around the sore area, and whether it hurts when you stretch the muscle or just when you contract it. If the pain is sharp, or there is bruising, or if you notice that it hurts more when you contract the muscle, then it is possible you have injured yourself and you are best off to go and check with your health professional.
Though if you are quite sure it is just DOMs you are experiencing, then here is what I suggest:
Rest your sore muscles until the pain subsides and use your exercise time to focus on other muscle groups that are not sore, e:g. Arms vs abdominals or legs. This is basically following the general rule or ‘rest days’. If your muscles are taking longer than usual for the pain to subside, then allow for longer to heal. It would also be a good idea, in this case, to reflect on whether you are getting enough protein in your diet and enough sleep each day, as these are both essential in your muscles recovery.
Having DOMs doesn’t mean you should spend a week in bed watching T.V. It is an indication your muscles are getting stronger, so keep up the good work and participate in some active recovery instead! Cardio, such as jogging, power walking, swimming, cycling, yoga and pilates are all excellent choices. However, active recovery also includes practising your normal resistance training at a reduced intensity (weight or resistance) and time frame. For example, instead of bicep curling 10kg per arm, working with a 3-6kg instead.
- If your muscles are aching and sore, why not treat yourself to a massage, or try using a foam roller, to help relax your sore muscles as well as stimulate the blood flow to those areas in order help facilitate healing.