Post exercise soreness: What to expect on your first week back at gym!

DeadliftWith gyms soon to be back open (yay!) after an extended break since March, it’s got me wondering how everyone will handle their transition back to the gym.  Most clients we speak to have been doing very limited resistance based exercise and instead opted for long walks and bike rides during COVID-19. This is partly due to inaccessibility to the correct weights and set ups, but also perhaps due to discipline (we all know how easy it is to skip the weights or HIIT session when you are comfy at home). But no doubt this weekend the gyms will be full of eager people keen to get back into routine and start smashing those 2020 goals that were put on hold.

Post exercise soreness is what we call ‘DOMS’ – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It’s that stiffness and discomfort you feel about 24 hours after your workout but will usually have its peak around 48 hours after the session. DOMs occurs when there is micro-trauma to the muscle fibers. It usually occurs after you have done resistance training (weights) or a type of HIIT and the body is not accustomed to that level/type/duration of that exercise. Exercise with a greater emphasis on the eccentric phase (lengthening or stretching phase of that exercise) is usually the culprit. A main point I like to clear up is that DOMs is NOT a bad thing. Often DOMs is mistakenly associated as the same thing as ‘pain’ as if they have injured themselves and the two are very different. Having the micro-trauma to the muscle fibers is one of the ways the muscle can rebuild and become stronger. But that does not mean that if you don’t get DOMs then the workout was a waste of time. On the extreme end of the spectrum, some people think if you don’t get DOMs then you didn’t push yourself hard enough and won’t get the benefits from the workout and this is not true either. So in a nutshell, expect to have some post workout soreness over the next few weeks while you are slowly getting back into routine and that is totally fine!

Do you want to know how to best deal with it? Here are the best remedies:

  1. Keep moving: the worst thing you can do for DOMS is sit still and not move. You will feel a heap better if you go for a walk, light cycle or do some general stretching or foam rolling.
  2. Heat: taking a hot shower/bath or if you are really struggling, putting a heat pack onto the areas where you feel the tightest can help ease the discomfort
  3. Light massage: similar to using a foam roller, if you have a spikey/tennis ball this can help target those pressure point areas in the muscle and can help alleviate the pain.
  4. Time! Time is your friend. DOMs will always go away (eventually)