It’s no secret to get the best from your workout it shouldn’t be easy and you need to push yourself. But where’s the line between pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and straining your joints and muscles leading to injury?
Good Pain vs Bad Pain:
There’s good pain and there’s bad pain. You know that feeling the day after you crushed an intense workout where you can barely walk or laugh, well that burn and muscle soreness is good pain.
Known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), it’s muscle soreness that usually appears six to eight hours after activity. That nasty stuff is lactic acid and according to Myofascial Integration Practitioner and yoga teacher, Lauren Haythe, where she says that it usually occurs when you introduce or vary a new or existing training activity.
“DOMS is most pronounced when you introduce a new training stimulus – a new activity, increased intensity or volume – or if you are new to physical activity in general,” she said. “That’s why on Day 1 at the gym, after doing squats or lunges with 10-15 pound weights, you can be brutally sore the next day.”
But don’t give up, keep at it because each time you do it it’ll be easier and you’ll be able to feel yourself getting stronger.
Harley Pasternak, author and celebrity trainer to Lady Gaga; Megan Fox and Halle Berry, explains what’s happening to our muscles during this time and why we shouldn’t shy away from it.
“The idea behind resistance training is that you’re basically tearing something and creating a micro trauma in the muscle,” he explains. “When the muscle recovers, it’s going to recover stronger and denser than it was before.”
But it’s important to know when we’ve reached our limit so it doesn’t lead to injury and damage. “A good way to tell the difference is if the pain is bilateral,” says Pasternak. “Having one very sore shoulder after you’ve worked both shoulders could spell injury.”
Generally speaking, good pain is generalised – if you spent 30 minutes on the stepper, you should feel the pain in your entire quads. Alternatively, if you’ve torn a muscle in your quads, you’ll feel a specific sharp pain at a particular point and area – this is when it’s time to stop.
How to Avoid DOMS:
For some, feeling DOMS is a feeling of achievement and victory, but for others, it nearly makes you want to drop the kettlebell forever and pick up a cocktail. But follow these tips to reduce your feelings of DOMS and keep your muscles and joints happy and healthy.
1. Warm Up:
Always warm up before you start exercising. A 2012 study from the BMC Medicine confirmed that when you warm up with a combination of stretching, balance and strengthening exercises, your risk of lower limb injuries are severely reduced. Even just a slow jog for five minutes and some stretching will not only improve your muscle and joint range during activity but will more importantly reduce your chance of injury.
2. Stay Hydrated During Activity:
Continually drink water throughout activity, but don’t overdo it. Small sips of water throughout the duration will keep you hydrated and replenish the water you lose through sweat. The general rule of thumb is to drink one glass of water for every 15 minutes you train. How can drinking lots of water be harmful you say? Well by drinking a lot of water, you’re continually reducing the amount of sodium in your blood. If you’re doing a high intensity activity for a duration of 90 minutes or more, you might want to also drink a sports drink such as Powerade that are full of electrolytes. “A lack of electrolytes can make muscles sore,” says Pasternak.
3. Rest and Recuperate:
Listen to your body, if it’s sore and has been strained, give it some time to rest and recover before you get back into training. Ice baths are great as cool temperatures help to reduce any pain and inflammation. Also make sure you have some form of post-workout protein snack within 20 minutes of finishing your activity. A protein shake or even a banana is great as it has not only protein but natural sugar in it to replenish lost nutrients and start repairing strained cells.
But if you do wake up the next day with DOMS, don’t think the best way to fix it is to lie on the couch all day and binge watch Netflix, any form of physical activity such as going for a walk will surprisingly help you.
“A cardio workout increases blood flow and acts as a filter system,” says Pasternak. “It brings nutrients like oxygen, protein, and iron to the muscles that you’ve been training and helps them recover faster. As the blood leaves the muscles, it takes some of the metabolic bi-products with it (like carbon dioxide and lactic acid) that may be causing DOMS.”
The main point to remember is to listen to your body. You’ll be able to feel the difference between pushing yourself and working harder and pain and strain. Don’t be worried with the slightest amount of pain when working harder, you’re just pushing your body beyond its normal range and strengthening it to make it stronger. Alternatively, if it isn’t your typical exercise strain, stop, relax and rest it until it get’s better. If you’re a beginner, take it slow and build up your training. But at the end of the day, it comes down to common sense. persistence.