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Why do we ache after exercise?

Updated: May 16, 2019

Whilst some of us thrive on those post exercise muscle aches, for a lot of people, the thought of that feeling is enough to fill them with dread. So what exactly is that feeling and why do we get it?

When we exercise and more usually do some kind of resistance training, we cause microscopic tears in our muscle. When our body heals these tiny tears, coupled with the right nutrition, we can lay on some muscle which is what gives us that more 'toned' appearance. It's the tiny tears and the inflammation that they cause which gives us those dreaded aches. This is known as DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

It is normally to feel some degree of DOMS a day or two after a good workout. It is not an essential part of training and is something that as you become more adapted to your training program that you will feel less often. For example, I rarely ache ever. I feel 'depleted' in my muscles but I no longer get horrendous DOMS.

When this can change is if we mix up our workouts. If I start a new program or if I went to something I have never done really done before like Pilates or a functional training system, no doubt I would experience more DOMS as my body would be untrained in that particular way of moving and engagement muscle tissue.

DOMS should not be excruciating and actually we should seek to do what we can to reduce especially painful DOMS in order to prevent it from limiting us in our daily movement... the things that we do to expend calories.

If you are aching for over 72 hours after your workout, chances are you worked too hard or you are not doing enough for recovery. Check out my blog post on how to avoid/decrease the amount of DOMS that you suffer so you are ready and fresh for each workout!

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