We have all been there. We finish a strenuous workout feeling pleased with ourselves and our perseverance, only to wake up the next day with a minimal range of motion. Every movement brings with it a debilitating ache. Perhaps we even feel we need to cut off the gym for good. Muscle soreness after working out is a common occurrence. Many would say it comes with the territory when working out. After all, no pain, no gain, right? But, on the other hand, pain is an indication from your body that something is not right. It can be a warning of impending damage—such is also true of muscle soreness.
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While it is true that muscle soreness often comes with extensive exercise, this does not make it a good thing. Many believe that feeling these aches and pains means the workout was done right, that their muscles are getting stronger. In part, this is true, but not entirely. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, occurs when your muscle is repairing itself after tearing during a workout. Here is where the “No pain, no gain” misconception comes in. When a muscle repairs itself, it comes back larger and stronger. Ergo, the more often you are sore after a workout, the stronger your muscles will become. While the essence behind this (muscle pain indicates repair and strengthening of muscles) is true, this is not the best route to gaining strength.
The Better Way to Strengthen Muscles
Gaining muscle strength is a long road that takes dedication and consistency. Women’s Health offers insight into a better way to gain strength that does not involve pushing yourself to the limit. They suggest sticking with a workout every day that does not max yourself out. When you push yourself until you are sore, not only do you know you are damaging your muscles, but you are less likely to get up the next day and work out again. This does not make for a good workout.
A great exercise is consistent, without breaks of days or even a day in between as you build muscle. Legion Athletics outlines why this approach is effective on their site. When you max out your muscles (trigger DOMS), they will need the time to repair before building themselves up again. This means that until you are at your best again, your workouts will not have their full effect.
This is not to say that if you feel sore at all after a workout, it was pointless. The fact that muscles have to break down to build back up is accurate, and with this will come pain. But it should not be your goal to burn yourself out with every workout. (If you shake or feel pain during your workout, stop immediately as this could be an indication of injury.) The key is to find a happy medium, one that exercises your muscles and encourages them to grow without pushing them to their absolute limit. And consistency with your workouts will ultimately reduce soreness as your body becomes accustomed to the effort.
What to Do with Muscle Soreness
So, what do you do when you find yourself dragging your feet during the simplest of tasks when perhaps even raising your arm is a struggle? One of the best ways to combat muscle soreness in the moment is with a massage. Use this practice to relax your muscles and ease the pain as you continue to grow stronger. KOA+ROY offers natural massage cubes with CBD for just such a relaxation routine. Keeping one on hand can be an excellent solution to keep muscle soreness from ruining your day.
Written by Sharayah Hooper
Photo by Karolina Grabowska