Have you ever had a challenging workout or just started back or begun a new fitness routine? Chances are if you have then you have probably experienced some post-workout muscle soreness. When you train your body, under load or resistance, like lifting weights, for example, your muscles experience micro-tears. This is a normal response to training, as muscle fibres require this overload to adapt and re-build stronger.

The thing is, there is a ‘good’ sore, and there’s a ‘bad’ sore. When the soreness you’re experiencing following a workout is more than mild aches and pains, you have what is officially described as ‘delayed-onset muscle soreness,’ also known as DOMS.

DOMS is the feeling you get a day or two (generally 24-48 hours) after a hardcore workout. It’s not just any soreness – your muscles may feel sore to touch, become noticeably weaker, with little to no power in them. During this time, your muscles are repairing. Blood flows to the damaged muscles along with proteins and hormones to help your muscles heal. The inflammation you’re experiencing causes pressure, which is what causes the soreness.

There are varying degrees of soreness depending on how much micro-tearing occurs, and other factors can come into play, including genetics, baseline fitness level, training technique and hydration. It’s important to be able to distinguish good pain from bad pain and manage both. Regularly experiencing an extreme level of soreness isn't normal or recommended.

When you’re feeling sore the best thing you can do is get up and move. Physical activity increases circulation to the muscles, which helps bring nourishment in and moves out toxins associated with DOMS.

This doesn’t mean you should jump right back into your routine, but do something lighter. Going for a walk, stretching/restorative yoga, foam rolling or riding a standing bike at the gym are all great options.

Other ways to manage DOMS include using a heating pad or ice pack. Ice will help reduce both soreness and localize inflammation while heat will help increase blood flow to the sore muscles. Alternating heat and ice is also an option. In addition to this, make sure you’re getting plenty of rest, consuming the recommended amount of protein and drinking enough water. This tried and true combination will ensure muscle recovery and help reduce recovery time!

If your DOMS continues for an extended period (beyond 4-5 days), it is recommended that you speak with a health professional or doctor.

Next time you hit the gym, remember not to work past your limits. Feeling extreme soreness doesn’t equal working harder or achieving results faster. Ensure you are nourishing and hydrating your body before, during and after your workouts. If you do experience DOMS, listen to your body and avoid intense workouts until the soreness has passed.