Any exerciser, from the most active to the most sedentary, knows that a new fitness routine can easily cause sore muscles, sometimes known as delayed onset muscle pain and soreness (aka DOMS). The theory is that the microscopic tears in the muscles, (this is a good thing-they are what promote growth and strength building) are what cause pain after a workout. Lots of people even like the pain. It’s proof of their accomplishments, but it’s not usually the desire when you walk into the gym. There are ways to prevent muscle soreness:
A heart pumping, muscle working, 5 minute warm up is your best defense against sore muscles. Shoot for a total body warm up to work all muscles, not just the legs, as you would with running or jumping rope. Try a calisthenic based warm up, like that which you’d get in a group fitness class. Other great warm-up choices are the rowing machine or the elliptical trainer, both which incorporate arms, shoulders and back.
Work out at a low intensity for the first two minutes, then increase the intensity slightly so that it’s not difficult, but so it’s not as difficult as a high interval during your cardio workout. Your goal is to get blood pumping into the largest muscle groups, and to ease your joints into the workout.
Stretching your muscles before a workout can be counterproductive. That’s right-you can even cause muscle pain or tears in muscles, ligaments, or tendons, so save your stretch session for the last 10 minutes of your workout. Carefully stretch each body part and hold the stretch for 15 seconds. Concentrate on your breathing and use the time to relax. Consider adding yoga or a few yoga poses to your cool down to get in maximum stretching.
Chug some water a few hours before your workout to keep your body hydrated. Cells need water to function, especially when you’re losing most of it through your sweat! Keep drinking during the workout as well, and drink at least 2 glasses after your workout.
Incorporating all body parts in your workout will avoid overusing one muscle group. Supersets are more likely to cause soreness because you are pushing your muscles to the limit, rather than logging more strength training workouts per week. When you are training, switch off between upper and lower body strength training, like performing a set of squats and immediately after, a set of pull-ups. Your workouts will go quicker than if you rest in between, and you’ll put less stress on those muscle fibers. You even get the added bonus of keeping your heart rate up during the workout.
5. Workout More
Sounds counter-intuitive, right? However, most avid exercisers find that they don’t get sore, no matter how hard they work! The key is to vary your workouts, and to do something almost everyday. On full-out workout days, run, take a class, lift weights, etc. On days off, take a 20 minute walk, a yoga class, or at least do some light stretching. That extra time will keep your workouts interesting, may even keep you motivated, and will help to prevent sore muscles.
Once your muscles are sore, rest and recovery are practically your only options, but working to prevent soreness is a great defense!