Why do I get muscle soreness 1-2 days after doing high intensity exercise?

Muscle Soreness

Why do I get muscle soreness 1-2 days after doing high intensity exercise?

It’s a question I am often asked and a very good one! Here is a short explanation and some tips that may help.


Delayed onset muscle soreness - this is the pain and stiffness you feel 24-48 hours after completing some high intensity exercise, which your body isn’t accustomed to.

When an exercise, particularly a high intensity exercise, is new to you/your body, you will feel more sore because your body is not yet used to it. However, over time this soreness will reduce because your nervous system adapts. For example, if you attend a HiiT class once every couple of weeks your body may take longer to adapt and therefore you will continue to feel the soreness and potentially for longer. However, if you attend a class once/twice a week, your body will adapt and feel less soreness. You may find that a new exercise added to your routine will have the same effect until your body gets used to it.

The soreness is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly in resistance training (weights/bodyweight strength work) because in order to build muscle and strength you actual need to create tiny ‘micro-tears’ in your muscle. Your muscle will then repair these tears and recovers to be stronger and firmer. The pain you feel is simply inflammation - your body is rushing blood cells to the area to help the repairing process which begins about 24 hours after exercise and is generally finished by 48 hours after the exercise.

However, soreness and pain is NOT essential! You do not have to feel in agony the few days after, but if you do there is no need to worry, it is completely normal and part of the strength building process.

How can I help reduce the soreness?

There are a few things you can do to help with the soreness/stiffness.

• Relax in a warm bath with Epsom salts - these are rich in magnesium which widen your blood vessels and aid recovery and the the warm water gives your sore muscles a soak.

• Cold water therapy - sit in a bath of cold water (if you are feeling really brave). This helps with pain relief and recovery.

• Foam rolling is a very effective form massage to ease muscle soreness, tightness and inflammation.

• DOMS recovery meal - steak, spinach, sweet potato and red peppers is the perfect recovery meal. The protein from the meat will help build and repair your muscles, Vit E from the spinach and potato will boost your immune system and the Vit C from the peppers will give you a well needed energy boost.

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