Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Called DOMS for short, this is the soreness you're probably most familiar with. It's what you feel when you get out of bed the next morning after a tough workout. This type of muscle soreness begins 24 to 48 hours after your workout and actually indicates a natural adaptive process that the body uses after an intense exercise session. When you do a new or particularly challenging workout, your muscle fibers tear on a microscopic level. It takes time for your body to repair that muscle, which is why you may feel this type of lingering soreness for up to 72 hours after that hard workout. Sometimes, you may even feel sorer on the second or third day after your tough workout than you did on the first. The good news? Once you get through this bout of soreness, that same activity shouldn't make you that sore (or sore at all) because your muscles will have gotten stronger and will be better able to handle that particular challenge.
How to prevent it: For a long time, fitness professionals believed that stretching would prevent DOMS, but current research is mixed on that. Stretching is great for a myriad of reasons, and you should continue to stretch and properly cool down, which is also believed to help prevent DOMS. But when it comes to avoiding DOMS entirely, your best bet is to progress slowly and steadily into your exercise program so that your muscles are gradually challenged and can build over time.Long-Term Muscle Soreness
Sometimes you might be sore for longer than 72 hours after a workout. If you are, this probably means that you really pushed yourself, did a completely new activity, or haven't exercised in a long time. This muscular soreness feels much like DOMS, just more severe, and indicates that your body needs additional time to repair those muscles.
How to prevent it: Like DOMS, prevention comes by slowly easing into your workout frequency, intensity and duration.Muscle Cramps
At one time or another, you've probably experienced a muscle cramp in your calf, foot or hamstring. Muscle cramps are basically sudden, involuntary contractions or spasms. They most commonly occur after exercise or at night and can last from a few seconds to several minutes. Muscle cramps can be caused by nerves that malfunction due to a health problem such as a spinal cord injury or a pinched nerve in the neck or back. Most muscle cramps have far less concerning causes like straining or overusing a muscle, dehydration, a lack of minerals in your diet, a depletion of minerals in your body, or low blood flow to your working muscles.
How to prevent it: Eating a healthy, nutritious diet and taking a multivitamin can help, as can making sure you're drinking enough water. Regular stretching and not overdoing it in your workouts will help prevent muscle cramps as well. Replacing lost electrolytes during prolonged (greater then 90 minutes) workout sessions is also helpful.Continued ›