*DOMS: delayed onset muscle soreness
I used to chase that ‘cripple’ feeling post workout. Couldn’t walk up the stairs after leg day? You know I went HAM. Two days later and I’m still feeling it? Brag-worthy.
Not so fast.
The soreness you feel is literally your muscle fibres tearing from overloading the muscles. This is good because this is how we build more muscle (the fibres tear and repair bigger.) But feeling too sore or for a longer period of time can raise some red flags. The main one being that your recovery isn’t being prioritized.
Recovery after resistance training is honestly just as important as the training itself.
I repeat: recovery is just as important as training.
This includes some form of post workout movement (like static stretches or light cardio to drop your HR) but goes beyond the gym from your nutrition, to hydration, to sleep and stress.
Recovery is your body’s way of healing and once it heals, it can then adapt for more change (like building more muscle.) DOMS can negatively affect your sleep quality and future training sessions. You don’t want to be training a muscle group that’s still overly sore (a little bit could be fine), because your body hasn’t had the chance to fully recover and adapt. Your body needs to recover from the damage, but then also given the time to adapt in order to grow bigger and stronger.
In all honesty, your workouts should compliment your lifestyle, and if they’re hindering other areas of your life, maybe chasing the DOMS isn’t the best mindset to have.
You can still have an extremely effective and progressive training session without feeling sore!
Resistance training (and the like) usually mean that we are trying to build our bodies in some form. It could be building our muscle size, building our foundational strength, building our core stability. Overdoing it by feeling broken and beat-down isn’t going to get us anywhere. In fact, it could actually be pulling you back from making forward progress.
If you’re feeling absolutely worse at the end of your workout than when you first started, maybe you need to revisit your training program and make sure that it’s aligned with your goals.
Of course there is a time and a place for high intensity session that leave you feeling defeated, but let’s save that to the professional athletes and for those people who have goals that specifically align with that and are being guided by a reputable coach.
So the next time you workout, think about your recovery and make sure you prioritize that. Pay attention to your movements and train with purpose. Train your body, not your ego. You won’t lose friends if you don’t wear the DOMS Badge of Honour.
And if you do, you needed new friends anyway.