Say hello to new muscles…

You came to aerial class, you crushed it, you rocked out, you were climbing, you were straddling, yes you even nailed a couple of tricks… You feel great, you feel badass, you feel awesome… until you wake up the next morning barely able to move! You are like owwwwwww jeez what happened, I kind of hurt all over in weird sort of places. These are some very common feedbacks I get… “I loved it – but I couldn’t move my arms for days” or “that was great fun – but now I can’t lift my coffee cup” or “awesome class but now it hurts to laugh”.

Welcome to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS for short)

This my friends is what we term DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, and it is what happens when you do any activity that your muscles aren’t used to doing (or do it in a much more strenuous way than you are used to) which leads to the body having to make adaptations to cope, i.e. get stronger fast so it can be better able to perform the task the next time. Basically it’s a good thing! The soreness usually kicks in from as soon as 8 hours post-class, and peaks around the 48 hour mark. Yeah I know it can mean a few days (or even up to a week) of sort of an annoying pain every time you need to do the simplest of things (like put your jacket on) but actually this soreness translates to progress, a job well done, and your ticket to inevitable gains (more muscles) as they call it in the fitness industry.

No pain no gain…

It is definitely not the type of damage or injury that you need to see your doctor about. The aches and pains should be minor, and are simply indications that muscles are adapting. If however, soreness prevents you from performing daily activities associated with living and work, then that’s a sign that you are overdoing it and you need to go easy on yourself in class.

And btw it doesn’t mean that you’re not getting as good a workout if you’re not crippled the next day. Some people just get it worse than others. People can be no-responders, low-responders or high-responders to soreness. If you’re a high-responder, you will experience DOMS more acutely than someone who is a no- or low-responder when given the same training. While you can’t change your genes, it is important to know where you fall on the spectrum to understand how your body may respond to different types of exercise.

What exactly is DOMS?

DOMS is mild muscle strain injury that creates microscopic tears to the muscle fibres. Scientists believe this damage, coupled with the inflammation that accompanies these tears, causes the pain.

Another common symptom of DOMS, beside the pain, is swelling in the muscles. You might notice that your muscles appear bigger than before. This isn’t because you’ve miraculously gained visible muscle mass in just one workout, but rather because your muscles are swelling as a response to the microscopic muscle tears.

The bad news…

The swelling and inflammation can build up for days after a workout, and that’s why muscle soreness may be worse two, three, or even four days after a workout (it can take up to five days for muscles to heal completely depending on the intensity of the workout). If your level of soreness does not go down significantly after 3 – 4 days and if the pain becomes debilitating, you experience heavy swelling in your limbs, or your urine becomes dark in colour, you should see your doctor.

The good news…

Once you have exercised in this specific way a few times and allowed your muscles to recover, you probably won’t get sore again as long as you do it regularly. My advice to you is that while you are sore take it easy – let your muscles recover. Do some stretching or some other forms of light exercise. If you really can’t survive without your exercise fix then cross train and use other muscle sets.

The good the bad and the ugly…

It is important to distinguish the difference between moderate muscle soreness induced by exercise – the ‘good type’ of sore, and muscle overuse – the ‘bad sore’ when you are completely overdoing it, or injury – the downright ‘ugly sore’ which I sincerely hope you never have to go through. If it’s an injury, you’re more likely to feel it immediately – something that should never be ignored and checked with your physio. An injury will likely limit your range of motion and last longer than three days. Soreness, on the other hand, will appear gradually, often the next day and the day after.

Sore today. Strong tomorrow!

So in a nutshell think of it like this – if you’re sore today it means you will be strong tomorrow! Please do not let the soreness put you off – it is perfectly normal. It’s sort of a wake up call to your muscles. After a few sessions of climbing, straddle inverts and tuck throughs it will be like ooooh hello muscles and before you know it soreness will be a thing of the past.

Ten top tips to help with muscle soreness

1.) EASE YOURSELF IN

One of the best ways to decrease the risk of DOMS is to slowly progress into a new exercise. So my advice to you is not to go all out and crazy in your first class. Yes I know it’s all new and exciting  but do yourself a favour and build things up slowly. This allows the muscles time to adjust to a new movement and leaves room for more adaptation.

2.) MASSAGE

Probably not what you want to be doing once the soreness has set in as it will be too painful. However a quick muscle rub after a workout will help to increase the blood flow and bring fresh oxygen and healing nutrients to the muscles, so that they can do the necessary repair work. You can self massage – I always have almond oil mixed with some essential oils at the ready (rosemary, black pepper, eucalyptus, ginger and lavender are all personal faves for the muscles) which I rub into any sore areas after a particularly tough workout.

3.) FOAM ROLL

Again possibly a bit too painful on freshly sore muscles but once they start to recover get in there with a foam roller. Studies have shown foam rolling can enhance recovery after DOMS and alleviate muscle tenderness, plus it’s an affordable, easy, and time-efficient way to boost recovery.

4.) HOT BATH

Yes totally awesome and essential for helping muscles relax and repair. Just for the record I find chucking in a handful of epsom salts (renowned for easing muscle strain) along with the yummy oils mentioned above an essential addition to the bath mix..

5.) SAUNAS

I am a massive fan of these – in fact I can’t get enough of them. Any opportunity to get a good sweat on and I’m there. When my body feels tired, sore or wiped out after training, a good sauna session will usually sort it right out. But be sure to drink gallons of water while you do this so you won’t dehydrate.

6.) HOT TUBS / JACUZZIS

Yeah ok so not everyone has access to these on a regular basis, but if you do these are a fantastic way to revive sore muscles. Spas and health clubs often have a jacuzzi so why not go treat yourself – great way to unwind from the week too.

7.) LOW INTENSITY WORKOUTS

Try some light exercise such as walking or swimming. Keeping the muscle in motion can also provide some relief. My favourite antidote to muscle soreness is a hot yoga class. Great to get into a slow, relaxed stretch mode with the added bonus of heat to help sooth the muscles. Swimming is also another personal favourite – (plus some Leisure Centres have a pool and a sauna so I tend to hunt these out and go for a double whammy body treat).

8.) HIGH INTENSITY WORKOUTS

Somewhat counter intuitively, you can also continue to do high intensity workouts to reduce muscle soreness, but this is only for the nutters out there! Apparently this helps because you get exercise-induced analgesia which is when your body increases it’s pain tolerance thresholds as a response to exercise. Basically go hard and smash through those pain barriers and you’ll soon toughen up.

9.) CROSS TRAIN

Ok so if it’s post-aerial class and you are suffering it’s going to be in your arms, abs, chest – those sort of areas. And yes I get it, continuing to train on those muscle groups is going to hurt bad. So take it easy and train other parts of your body. This is why athletes often cross-train and vary their routines to continue to challenge and develop their muscle strength.

10.) OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

Finally it is recommended to take the supplement Omega-3, which is a fatty acid found in fish. There are a ton of studies to show taking omega-3 is good for you in many ways, including muscle stiffness, joint pain and dealing with DOMS.

So I hope you now have a better understanding of the post-aerial-muscle-soreness-syndrome. Feel free to leave your comments – I’d love to know what happened after your first aerial class and which bits hurt the most!