If you’ve just done an advanced Bootcamp class for the first time in a while or ridden hard for seven days straight, you’ve likely experienced several days of sore, achy muscles that make climbing stairs, getting out of bed, and even walking painful.
There’s a term for this condition: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. This type of muscle ache occurs 12 to 24 hours after a strenuous workout that stresses the muscle more than it is used to, resulting in tiny, painful tears that can last as long as 72 hours post-workout. Tender muscles, reduced range of motion and short-term loss of muscle strength all fall under the DOMS umbrella.
“Experienced athletes have built up the resistance to muscle fatigue, so they get less sore than a person who has not been exercising a lot,” or is undertaking a new regimen,” says Dr. Kristine Blanche, RPA-C, PhD . “When we first start working out we have yet not built up our resistance to fatigue so we feel a bit more sore.” While the pain typically dissipates after three to five days, there are ways you can get relief in the meantime.
Rest, Ice or Heat, Massage, Repeat
If jumping into a new workout regimen has resulted in DOMS, you’ll want to take a step back and allow your muscles a few days to repair themselves. While you’re doing this, ice packs applied to tender areas as well as topical analgesics can ease symptoms as your muscles work to recover. Some people also benefit from soaking in a warm tub which can help ease pain and stiffness. Dr. Blanche has also recommended a topical CBD oil and magnesium cream to certain patients.
Foam rolling may be too painful on sore muscles, but can help alleviate the onset of DOMS if performed right after a workout, as can self-massage 48 hours after a tough workout to help ease muscle soreness and stiffness. Suffering from DOMS doesn’t mean becoming a couch potato, though. If your bootcamp class has left you with heavy, stiff legs, focus on working your upper-body and core until your legs catch up. Some light, low-impact exercise such as swimming or walking may help keep stiff muscles warm and allows for increased blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to affected areas.
Once Recovered, Work Out Smarter
Having an array of cycling and Tread classes, plus strength training at your fingertips can be incentivizing. It’s best, however, to listen to your body and allow your muscles to adapt over time to new moves or longer rides or runs.
What’s also helpful? Cross-training so you avoid overuse injuries. If you like to ride six times a week, try a yoga class every couple days, or take a shorter ride and devote 10 to 15 minutes to a stretch class. Dr. Blanche suggests “working arms and legs on separate days since they are less resistant to fatigue and require rest.”
Warming up and cooling down before your intense exercise session is also a good idea. Peloton Tread Instructor Jess Sims recommends a dynamic warmup before your workout where you're constantly moving and getting warm. “This type of warmup will mimic movements you might encounter during your workout to prepare your muscles for a particular workout," says Jess. "You don’t want to do static stretching when you’re cold because you’re pulling on muscles that are currently stiff." However, static stretching is perfect for after a workout and a proper cool down so that you can elongate the muscles, increase blood circulation, and increase your odds of being able to rock out another workout tomorrow.