If you’ve ever struggled to lower yourself onto the toilet seat after a hard leg workout, you know that muscle soreness 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 – although there are some ways you can speed this up and help your sore muscles heal faster.
Why do my muscles get sore 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 a workout?
Muscle soreness is also called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), 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 soreness after a workout?
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.
1. Stay well hydrated during and after your workouts: It reduces inflammation, and delivers nutrients to your muscles so they can repair themselves.
2. 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.
3. 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) will deliver glycogen and amino acids to your hungry muscles, and help speed up the recovery process.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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 it?
There’s a difference between a little DOMS and an injury.
DOMS feels uncomfortable and might make you wince a little, 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.
DOMS happens to everyone, but 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!
Now, onto the Captain's Log for yesterday! P.S. if you're just joining us, I'm on a 90 day journey to transform my health and fitness and I'm bringing you with me! Each day I keep you updated about what I'm eating and how I'm exercising to get into the best shape of my life.
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I hadn’t meal prepped anything this week, so I went for a healthy go-to I always keep in the pantry: chia and vanilla porridge with some raspberries and berry Greek yoghurt. It was a berry fest.
OMG I know it looks like a tiny bowl but it was actually a mammoth feast. I had trouble finishing it!
For lunch today I debated heavily whether to get sushi, but since adulthood is basically just having to have the “we have food at home” conversation with yourself, I opted for something home prepared instead.
It was a bit of a mixed bag: just using what I had in the pantry and fridge, but we ended up with a smoked salmon sandwich on 9 grain bread with lettuce, sundried tomato, avocado, red onions, and low fat mayo.
Okay, so we need to talk about dinner because there was a situation. A Marley Spoon situation.
Remember the other week when I got Marley Spoon and I didn’t love it? Like it was fine, but it just wasn’t going to work for me?
I cancelled one week but apparently I didn’t cancel ALL of the weeks??? So ....... on Sunday night I got a text saying that my Marley Spoon order was due for delivery on Monday.
*facepalm* Rhiannon, Rhiannon, Rhiannon.
It was too late to back out, and too late to choose our meals, so we get what we get and we don’t get upset.
Look, I’m not altogether mad about it, because I didn’t go grocery shopping on the weekend, so what can you do?
I mean, I probably would have chosen something from the low calorie range, given the option, but I was kind of impressed by the meals they chose for me.
Tonight’s meal was corn and bean tacos for Meat Free Monday (which freaked Greg out because he doesn’t do vegetarian meals ... at all). But, all said and done, it was a hit.
How good does it look?
I mean, yeah, the recipe used a TONNE of dishes (like, too many to fit on our dish rack) and it took about 45 minutes to cook (the recipe card said 30), but man, did it taste good. Even better than it looks good.
Like, I’m no slouch when it comes to the kitchen, but I was kind of amazed I could cook like that.
ALTHOUGH: the amount of calories and carbs in this sucker were hefty: almost 1000 calories and 125+ g of carbs a serve. (I don’t count calories, but for reference, the average maintenance calories for an adult woman is about 2,000 a day ... so this was almost literally half that in just one meal. Almost as many calories as in a medium Big Mac meal.)
Not to worry: because teachable moment. Even though the recipe cards in these things say they serve two portions, those are just estimations and are totally arbitrary.
You don’t HAVE to eat the whole thing. I mean, you can if you want to, and that’s totally fine too.
But you can always halve the portions, or reduce them by a third, if you feel like it’s going to be too big a meal for you. Don’t force yourself to eat it because the recipe says it serves 2.
I chose to just have two tacos instead of three, saving myself about 300 calories, and I saved the third one for lunch (so I could have dessert instead, because I’m always thinking about dessert).
As extra validation, even Greg said that the third taco was almost one too many for him, so it really was a giant meal.
For dessert tonight I had a Quest Bar – raspberry and white chocolate flavour. Raspberry and white chocolate/raspberry cheesecake is my favourite flavour of life. Yum! So good.
For my workout today I pulled out an old Mousercise workout from the archives. It was surprisingly intense. Within 45 minutes, I was gasping for air.
Although, I am due for my lady’s time in a few days and I’ve noticed that my exercise tolerance goes way down around that time of the month. Does anyone else find this?
Well, that’s about all I have time for tonight, my glam babies.
I hope you’re out there staying true to your goals, keeping hydrated, taking care of those sore muscles, and loving the heck out of yourself!
Until tomorrow, keep shining bright.
- Xo, Rhi