Expert Q&A

Muscle soreness: How can beginners prevent it?

Every time I start an exercise program I’m terribly sore the next day. It’s discouraging and it makes me dread doing it. Am I doing something wrong?

-Frank from Texas

Most likely you’re doing too much. This type of muscle soreness—called “delayed onset muscle soreness” (DOMS)—results from pushing a muscle to do more than it is accustomed to. When you overload a muscle, you won’t always get DOMS. However, first-time exercisers frequently get DOMS. Why? First-timers usually don’t know their limits. And they often don’t perform exercises properly.

Don't overdo exercises and make sure you do them correctly to avoid muscle soreness

The next time you exercise, go easy on yourself. Do less, even if you think you aren’t getting enough exercise to accomplish anything. Afterward, wait a day or two and see if you get sore anywhere. If not, increase the intensity of your exercises: go faster (if you’re doing cardio) or do more reps. Also, it’s a good idea to learn more about the correct form for each exercise. Get a consultation with a personal trainer, watch instructive videos, or do other types of research. Remember that proper form is very important in preventing injuries.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. Keep in mind that moderate, incremental changes in your workout will benefit you the most. You will attain your fitness goals through perseverance and consistency, not by overworking yourself. The phrase “no pain, no gain” is outdated…and dangerous. If you feel pain, stop.

Michele Silence, MA
Contributing Expert

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