Why A New Exercise Routine Makes You Unbelievably Sore

Why A New Exercise Routine Makes You Unbelievably Sore

Originally appeared on Refinery29.com

By Sarah Jacoby

You were so enthusiastic when you started the month. You signed up for every class that sounded fun: HIIT, bikram, and rowing in one week? Sure, what could go wrong? A lot, it turns out: There are over 600 muscles in the human body and suddenly it feels like all of them are sore at once. Is this a sign you probably started a little too hard too soon? Yep, sorry. Is it also the sign of a great workout? Maybe — maybe not. Here’s what your sore muscles are really trying to tell you.

The technical term for being so sore that you have to crawl around your apartment floor on your stomach for a day (definitely not speaking from experience here) is “delayed-onset muscle soreness,” a.k.a. “DOMS.” Although any new fitness routine is bound to leave you with some soreness, the key here is the “delayed-onset” part. Because, unlike pulling a muscle or simply feeling your arm get tired after too many bicep curls, you don’t feel DOMS until a full day or two after your workout. (Your muscles can definitely feel fatigued right after the workout, but probably not can’t-move sore — not yet, anyway.)

One early theory about DOMS was that a buildup of lactic acid was the real culprit, but that line of thinking has been basically abandoned at this point. When you exercise, your body does break down glucose into lactic acid, but your muscles then use it as fuel — it’s a good thing! Plus, any lactic acid that’s built up during a workout dissipates within a few hours, not days.

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