If you’re just starting a program or have been fit for years, chances are you’ve had to deal with some debilitating muscular soreness along the way. And if you haven’t, we have a solid indicator that you haven’t pushed your body hard enough to change.
So, let me just preface this by saying that muscular soreness is NOT an indicator of a good workout. (same goes with puking by the way, but that’s a whole other thing). Muscle soreness is simply an indicator that you’ve introduced a new stimulus to the body, something that you’re not used to. The more sore you are, the greater the degree of this stimulus and the greater the shock factor to your body. The less sore you start to become, the more your body is growing stronger and adapting to the stimulus you give it.
DEALING WITH DOMS
Occasionally you’ll have some acute onset muscle soreness directly after your workout, which is a signal that your body just underwent some serious SHIT. But, D.O.M.S. or “delayed onset muscle soreness” is what most of us are used to experiencing. It usually starts to set in the day after your workout and slowly gets worse up to about the 48-hour mark.
And by worse, I mean falling over the toilet seat worse. Hell, when I started p90x, I couldn’t even roll over in my own bed I was so sore. But I was also NOT doing a lot of things that I should’ve been doing, and those are the mistakes that I want to help you avoid. Because not being able to train because you’re too sore is a momentum killer, and will ultimately lead to some serious disappointment, and have you reaching for the pizza.
A NOTE ON NUTRITION & SLEEP
It’s important to note first that your daily nutrition plays an extremely important role in your recovery abilities, and your sleep is even more important. So, before we get into the DOMS DIYs, you need answer these two questions:
Am I following my program’s nutrition guide to a T, and hitting my calorie and macronutrient goals on a daily basis? And keep in mind, you won’t have the answer unless you’re actively logging your food.
Am I getting 7-9 hours of sleep at least 6 nights a week? We all have different sleep needs, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve sacrificed A LOT over the last few years, but one thing holds true for everyone. Sleep is the one thing that is everything, that requires nothing. And if you’re not hitting your numbers, your recovery ability is being comprised.
DIY RECOVERY TECHNIQUES
Now, to the fun part. You know I’m a do shit myself kind of guy, not because I’m some kind of genius, but because I’m busy and I’m frugal. And I know you guys are to. So, instead of popping the ibuprofen, try some of these first.
Pre/Intra/Post Workout Supplementation: Too many guys are out there lost as shit when it comes to supplements, wasting money on testosterone boosters and thermogenics without having the basics worked out first. They jump from this to that but don’t have a logical system in place. Don’t be like them.
Do we need supplements? No, absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I’ve gone through several programs without any of what I’m about to mention, but being as active as I am, they’ve proven highly beneficial in my ability to consistently push harder, move faster, and cover more ground without crashing.
Most importantly here, we need a post workout concoction of some easy-to-digest protein and carbohydrates. Because protein synthesis and glycogen restoration commence at twice the normal rate for up to 2 hours after your workout, we need to down something quick.
On top of your post workout, I would also recommend you sip on something during your session to keep you in the game and to accelerate the recovery process. Our workouts are the 1-hour per day we have to PUSH, and we want to be able to give them our absolute best effort.
Beachbody performance has us covered here with the recovery and the hydrate formulas, both of which I use and would highly recommend. I didn’t use either of these when I first started, and it was a huge mistake.
Post workout nap: this could really be at any time during our day, but it needs to be SHORT. Nothing over 25 minutes. These give us a nice little surge of growth hormone and a second wind. Now, a lot of you may not have this luxury (and many days I don’t either), but just lying down for a few minutes in the supine position and breathing deeply will be better than nothing at helping you recover.
Walk it out: on the flip side to our naps, the more we stay moving, pumping nutrient rich-oxygenated blood into our sore muscles, the faster they’ll recover. Those of us who have been at it for a while know this all too well. Car rides and desk jobs can make our lives a living hell when we’re sore, so try to stand, walk, and pedal when given an option.
Contrast showers: These are epic and combat soreness like a boss. Basically we’re trying to emulate an ice bath here, but in a much less expensive, much more convenient way. We’re going to alternate between extremely hot and extremely cold for 1 minute intervals, for about 5-7 minutes. And when I say “extreme”, I mean as hot or cold as you can stand. Finish on cold, and walk out of there a new man.
Foam rolling/myofascial release: There are no shortcuts to success, but if anything were to close, this would be it. I’ve got a variety of foam rollers, bands, dowel rods, and other tools I use for specific areas of the body, but I recommend we start simple. Try a medium density foam roller or a handheld roller (they look like baking pins) and work on slowly rolling the sorest areas first. The less it feels like death, the more mobile and less prone to injury we’re becoming. Side note: make sure to stay hydrated during these rolling sessions so you don’t get queasy.
Pay attention to your training cycle: Aside from Body Beast, there aren’t any Beachbody programs that are structured with a body-part-a-day training split. And even Beast limits this split into a 4-week cycle. If we’re following the program as written, the Build phase gets us used to some volume so we can handle it, but if you’re training only 1 muscle group per day for an extensive period of time (say, longer that 4 weeks) and are NOT recovering well, you may need to dial it down on the volume and cycle back into a different split (back/bis, chest/tris, etc), replacing your volume with frequency.
Hope that helps, guys! Soreness is a bitch, and to some degree we’ll always have to man up and power through it if we want great results, but give some of these a try and let me know what’s working for you.
NEED A COACH?
As a former anorexic to an international fitness presenter, I'm here to help. Relentlessly dreaming and seeking self confidence - I've been there and done it. You have the fire, you have the passion. Now it's time to put it to work.