If you’ve ever struggled to lower yourself onto the toilet seat after a hard leg workout, you know that sore muscles after working out is the worst!
Muscle soreness can begin a few hours after a workout and sometimes doesn’t peak until 48 hours after you’ve exercised. However, there are some ways to help your sore muscles heal faster.
Why do I get sore muscles after working out?
Getting sore muscles after a workout is completely NORMAL.
(P.S. It should feel uncomfortable, not acutely painful – more about this below.)
Although you’re more likely to get muscle soreness if you’re new to exercise, trying a new kind of exercise, or beefing up the intensity of your workouts, everyone gets muscle soreness from time to time.
Sore muscles after a workout can be a good sign.
See, during exercise, the strain on your muscles causes tiny tears in your muscle fibres. As these repair, they get larger and stronger than before.
This is exactly how exercise works. Over time, the more you workout, the larger and stronger your muscles become.
But those tiny tears can be mega uncomfortable, because they cause inflammation in the muscle you’ve worked.
HOWEVER – if you don’t get sore after a workout, it’s totally fine and normal too. You’ve still had a good workout, even if you don’t get sore afterwards.
Working out to the point of “sore” shouldn’t be the goal, but sometimes it happens and we deal with it.
How long do sore muscles last after working out?
Muscle soreness is also called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). This is because it comes on a few (6-8) hours after you’ve finished exercising, and can last for a while after your workout.
Although it might feel like your muscles have been sore a long time, don’t worry. Most muscle soreness doesn’t last for more than 48 hours.
That being said, there are things to do that can help relieve DOMS a whole lot sooner.
How do I reduce muscle sorenes?
Okay, take it from someone who has held onto the walls of the bathroom to get onto the toilet because her legs didn’t work post-leg day.
There are ways to reduce muscle soreness a LOT sooner so you can get back on with your real life again.
- Stay well hydrated during and after your workouts: It reduces inflammation, and delivers nutrients to your muscles so they can repair themselves.
- You need this bath soak: There is nothing more soothing than getting in this bath soak before bed after a long workout. It smells manly but it’s worth it, so good for sore and aching muscles. I also love a good magnesium salt bath with a few drops of eucalyptus oil. Sorts my sore muscles right out.
- Feed your muscles post-workout: Within 30-60 minutes of working out, make sure your muscles get a hit of nutrients that they can actually use to repair themselves. A meal high in carbs and protein (not fat) delivers glycogen and amino acids to your hungry muscles, speeding up the recovery process.
- Start where you are: You don’t need to jump from the couch to Crossfit bootcamp circuits. Fitness, especially lifelong fitness, is all about starting where you are and progressing gently but continuously to the next step. This won’t just maximise your progress, it’ll also prevent injury. Jumping into high intensity exercises if you’re a beginner can be dangerous. Know your limits and challenge them, but don’t overdo it.
- Heat creams with menthol, like Deep Heat, and even Vix actually work wonders. Rub them on your sore muscles for almost instant relief. Just make sure to wash your hands afterwards … ya know … before you touch something that REALLY doesn’t need Deep Heat on it.
- Don’t skip your warm up and cool down: Too many people skip stretching and it’s a big mistake. Warming up increases blood flow to your muscles, which can prevent soreness later. Stretching post workout helps to lengthen out that muscle, circulates blood from your muscles back toward your heart, and boosts your flexibility overall. It’s soothing in the moment, prevents injury, and can help beat that pesky DOMS too.
- Get plenty of good quality sleep: Sleep is your body’s ultimate reset function. Your cells repair, and NREM sleep increases the creation of new proteins, which your muscles need for repair.
- Rest up: You’ll want to wait 48 hours before you work the same muscle group again. This will give it plenty of time to repair properly. That said, laying on the couch for the next 48 hours won’t help either. In fact, it’ll just make everything so much worse. Alternate hard workout days with light activity, like walking, swimming, yoga or leisurely cycling, especially when you’re just starting out.
- Massage: Any form of massage to your muscle soreness will feel like BLISS and is scientifically proven to help too. Foam rolling after a workout is a myofascial massage that’s been proven to work – but my favourite way to ease sore muscles is with this handheld massager from Wahl. I got it for Greg for Christmas but I use it on my sore quads and calves, and it’s absolutely been a godsend. Very reasonably priced too.
Should you be freaked out about DOMS?
There’s a difference between a little DOMS and an injury.
DOMS feels uncomfortable and might make you wince a little (like when you’re getting on and off the toilet, for example), but it shouldn’t feel acutely painful.
It also shouldn’t last for more than 72 hours.
Other warning signs to look for are things like bruising, redness, swelling, stabbing pain, or pain around your joints or bones.
If it seems different to the usual muscle soreness, feels unbearable, causes dizziness, or it’s lasting longer than a few days, get in touch with your doctor ASAP, so you can rule out a more serious injury.
So, In Conclusion…
Having sore muscles after working out happens to everyone! However, it can be especially nasty when you’re new to working out. The soreness only lasts a few days – but with a few handy tried and true remedies, you can get back to your normal life a whole lot sooner.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any tried and true remedies for sore muscles after working out? Share them with me in the comments!