Why am I so sore after taking a CrossFit class?
If you do CrossFit, you know the true meaning of sore! Like the OMG it hurts to shower after…, I had to crawl out of the bed this morning…, and I will cry if I have to climb those stairs… kind of sore. We have all been there. It hurts. But it’s good for you. It’s a part of CrossFit. You will adapt.
When you perform a WOD, you are working your muscles to the max. Normally you are left feeling worn out, shaky, and weak. Your body, specifically your muscles, is having a reaction. And I’m not just talking about lying on the floor in your own sweat wondering if you can get up in the next few minutes type of reaction… I’m talking about a physiological reaction in your skeletal muscle. You are constantly stimulating the muscles, causing minor trauma to the muscle tissue. The technical term for this type of damage is called hypertrophy. This breakdown forces the muscle to restructure and grow. The muscle tissue returns bigger and stronger given the correct nutritional and recovery conditions. This is, in a nutshell, how you build muscle. Isn’t our body an amazing machine?
Being sore is a symptom of hypertrophy and the technical term is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS for short. It usually begins 8-24 hours after exercise, peaks 24-72 hours after exercise and then usually subsides. DOMS pain is felt only when the muscle is stretched, contracted or put under pressure, not when it is at rest. If you have a muscle that is hurting when you are completely still, that is not soreness; it’s more than likely a pulled muscle. The onset of soreness varies from person to person depending on the type of workout and level of fitness. No one is immune to muscle soreness. Even the most experienced CrossFitter’s, elite athletes, and body builders alike experience DOMS.
So here’s the good news! Soreness is a good sign. It lets you feel what muscles you worked, if not rather painfully. But the soreness actually means you are getting stronger. Once you work out certain muscle groups during a WOD, in the weeks that follow, your muscles will become immune resulting in less tissue damage, less soreness and a faster recovery. This is the reason that CrossFit is so successful. It is constantly keeping your muscles guessing and every workout is different in order to create stronger muscles that are better able to perform in the future. CrossFit programming is meant to push your muscles to the max but not overuse them.
It is important to distinguish the difference between moderate muscle soreness caused by exercise and muscle overuse or injury. DOMS should not prevent you from performing daily activities. ”Ouch” sore is okay, actual pain is too much and you should probably scale your WOD’s more the next time around. Always push yourself but learn your limits. CrossFit is designed to make you a better athlete. If you keep getting hurt you are only inhibiting your performance. Here are some tips to remember in the future:
I put prevention in quotes because there is no way to truly prevent muscle soreness from WOD’s. You should, however, ALWAYS warm up before doing WOD’s. A warm-up means, a quick light jog for about 400-600 meters, jump rope (not DU’s) for 3-4 mins or some light rowing. All warm ups should be done at a leisurely pace, not leave you out of breath and a little gassed pre-WOD. The goal is to warm up your muscles to prepare them for what is to come. Doing mock shoulder presses with PVC pipe and shoulder warm-ups are also great. Just ask your coaches for more suggestions if need be.
After, and only after a warm up, should you do some light stretching to help prevent strains and pulls. All this together would probably take 8-10 mins. DOMS is still likely to occur, but a sore muscle is better than a pulled one. *Also remember to stretch after your WOD’s. This really will help to prevent some soreness.
- There is no magic pill to relieve muscle soreness, but you can try an anti-inflammatory. A daily dose of fish oil is best and always recommended. But, if you have to use an NSAID, make sure you don’t overuse them, take with food and plenty of water and never take before doing a WOD.
- Try using some compression gear during and after workouts. They increase blood flow, which bring fresh oxygen and healing nutrients to the muscle. The increase in blood flow also helps to wash away the chemical irritants responsible for pain. (I like wearing the Zensah high knee socks on running, box jumps and double under days.)
- Low-intensity activities such as yoga, walking, or swimming can help muscles heal faster by increasing blood flow to the muscles.
- A foam roller is also great to help work out some of the soreness.
The best thing for DOMS is to keep working out as normal. Yep! I know that seems counter-productive, but it’s true. Don’t wait till the soreness is gone; don’t skip a WOD unless it’s a rest day. Push through and stay active. Exercise helps to increases your pain threshold and pain tolerance.
The bottom line is that you will always get sore as long as you are progressing. DOMS will not occur every single time, your recovery time will improve and the length of time you are sore will continue to shorten. Keep in mind that it all depends on the work out and your intensity level. Remember to continue to push yourself and challenge your muscles. Don’t stick to the same weight because you are so concerned about your time. Work hard and make yourself better.