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Sound Medicine Radio Hour

Help For Weekend Warriors: How To Exercise Without The Soreness

working out in an exercise studio
A&A Photography via Flickr
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You probably know the feeling of waking up sore and wobbly-legged the day after a long hike or intense workout.  There’s a name for that: delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS – and there are things you can do to stop it.

Dr. Holly Lucille, a naturopathic physician and CrossFit trainer in West Hollywood, California, says DOMS is caused by microscopic tears in muscle fibers that release chemical irritants, triggering inflammation. Once you have DOMS, simple tasks like lifting grocery bags or pulling a laptop from the car can trigger a flare-up.  

Lucille says she often sees DOMS among “weekend warriors,” people who are not physically active most days, but engage in intense workouts when they have the time.

She advises patients and trainees to increase the intensity and velocity of their workouts gradually.

But it's not just working out that can lead to DOMS, Lucille says. Any daily activity that uses muscles that have not been worked recently—lifting heavy bags of groceries with your non-dominant arm or “changing your gait to not slip on the icy sidewalk"— can lead to soreness just in the way that going to a new yoga class might. So pay attention to the way you alter your movements to adapt to changes in your environment, advises Lucille, and don't overdo it.

Lucille says that if you don’t put additional strain on those muscles, the pain of DOMS typically recedes in two or three days, but if it continues, you might be developing an injury, and should consider seeing a doctor.