Reduce Muscle Soreness After Exercise

Did you ever wake up the day after starting an exercise program and feel so sore that your muscles ach with each step you take?  Whether you are new to working out or someone who likes to change up your exercise routine from time to time, I’m sure this sounds familiar.  Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) usually occurs 12-48 hours after exercise and can last for up to 7 days.  This unpleasant pain can often cause people to stop exercising, but don’t let it stop you.  Instead, try the following tips to help minimize these symptoms.

  1. Don’t forget to stretch.  Stretching at the end of a workout is one of the best ways to reduce DOMS and increase flexibility.  Use the following principles to make sure you are stretching properly:
    1. Never stretch cold muscles.  Make sure you warm up your muscles for at least 5 minutes before stretching.  Stretching after exercise is more effective at reducing the risk of injuries and muscle soreness than exercising before exercise.
    2. Move slowly into your stretches, and hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.  You do not want to bounce or push your muscle too far.
    3. Repeat each stretch at least 3 times.  It is ideal to spend at least 30 minutes a week on flexibility training, but even 5 minutes after a workout can help.
    4. Remember to breathe while you stretch.
  2. Warm up before exercise.  Spend the first 5 minutes of workout building up your heart rate gradually and giving your muscles a chance to get warm.  This helps reduce your risk of injury and helps to minimize DOMS. 
  3. Gradually add onto your exercise routine.  There are three ways to build up your exercise routine, and it is called the FIT principle.  You can add on Frequency, Intensity or Time.  Try building up one at a time, NOT all three.
    1. Build Frequency by adding in an extra day or two of workouts.  For example, if you exercise 2 days a week, try adding in a third day each week.
    2. Intensity is how vigorous your workout is.  For example, if you walk usually walk a mile in 20 minutes; try to up your intensity so you can walk 1.1 miles in the same amount of time.  As a general rule of thumb, you will only want to increase intensity by 10% per week. 
    3. If you want to build up the amount of time you spend exercising, add on 5-10 minutes at a time.  Instead of a 20 minute bike ride, try going for 25 minutes.
  4. Don’t forget to take a day off from exercise!  Muscles need time to recover and rebuild, so it is always good to allow for a recovery day each week.  This does not mean you cannot do any activities on this day, but you will want to keep it light.  Going for a leisurely walk in the park or doing some stretching will still give your muscles the break they need to repair themselves.