If you have explored or are a regular visitor to the Employee Fitness Center page you might have noticed prominently displayed in the middle of our web page is a tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted homage to “Leg Day”. For those of you who may not have vast experience yet or haven’t explored the joys of split routines and have only heard faint whispers and rumors in the shadows about the dreaded ‘Leg Day’ workout let me share what we are playfully making fun of.
It’s a Love/Hate Relationship
There is a serious love/hate relationship with ‘Leg Day’. As the name implies, the only thing you work on ‘Leg Day’ is your legs. It seems like everyone talks about wanting strong legs or a poppin’ booty. (And, yes, I have actually been asked “How do I get a poppin’ booty?”) So the long term results of leg day would be the love part of the relationship.
Now the ying to that yang- “Tim, Yesterday I did legs and now I walk like a penguin. I have fallen and can’t get up. How come you didn’t tell me I needed a ‘medic alert’ service subscription after leg day?!?” That would be the hate part of the relationship. For you who might be new, that might be the insight you needed to understand the often times not so subtle humor of those cute little leg day memes we post on our page.
Often times if someone is using a split routine and they, for whatever reason, need to skip a day usually leg day is the first to go. Why? Because those lower appendages are going to be sore from a good leg day workout and somehow you still need to cowboy up and use those puppies for locomotion the next day. Life doesn’t stop after leg day and neither do you! I am pretty sure there isn’t any time card pay code for post leg day sick time.
The Why Behind the Penguin Waddle and T-rex Arms
If you have worked out you have probably displayed the penguin waddle or felt like you have t-rex arms the next day. This is normal. Yup! You heard me right. I didn’t stutter. Let me introduce you to DOMS. DOMS is highly scientific acronym that stands for- Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Yup, that’s it.
The first time I heard that acronym and the definition of it was in an Exercise Physiology class at Fresno State. I remember raising my hand sheepishly in class and asking, “Really? That’s it? No complicated scientific jargon? No Latin or Greek based root words either?” It is exactly what it says it is.
So you are laying there in bed in the morning after a killer gym workout, trying to coax your post-gym thrashed, t-rex arm to hit the snooze alarm so you have five more minutes to muster the fortitude to face the day. Your brain is thinking, “This stinks! Who moved the alarm clock so far away! At least tomorrow will be better.” NOPE! DOMS is in full effect anywhere from 24-48hrs post workout.
Don’t freak out or panic, this is normal. You will survive this! “Why does it hurt?” you may be asking yourself. Well, during your workout you applied a load to your muscles that they aren’t used to getting in your normal everyday life. Basically, you overloaded them and with that stress you placed on them, you created microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. With proper nutrition and a little rest, your body will knit it self back together again a little bit bigger and stronger than before. Your body is basically doing what it needs to do to meet the increased demand you are placing on it. After a little recovery you go at it again and repeat the cycle. Little by little your muscles adapt and you become bigger, stronger, faster and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Think of this process like a microscopic arms race between you and your muscles. You are constantly changing your workout, so there is always a demand your muscles are not used to i.e., increased weight lifted, more sets, more reps, a different movement pattern etc. Your body is constantly trying to adapt to what you are putting it through. DOMS is basically your body letting you know that it is repairing itself after you’ve thrashed it.
It is also important to keep in mind this soreness is normal. Even deep muscle soreness may be normal. With that being said, if you experience sharp/stabbing pain or extreme muscle pain, that is something you might want to have a chat with your physician about.
To be or not to be sore – that’s the question
I can see your wheels spinning from here. You are reading this and thinking, “Do I need to go hard enough that I am sore every time?” Sure it is common to be sore after a hard workout. Yes, being sore can be an indication you have pushed hard enough so that your body is going through that repair process. Does it mean that if I am not sore after a workout that I didn’t push hard enough to see improvement? No, not at all. It’s not uncommon for me to have workouts where I am not sore at all just a bit tight with a slight ache. This is also normal.
The point I am trying to make here is that we are in this for the long haul. Think of it as a marathon. Some sore achy muscles are good but don’t feel like you need to obliterate yourself workout after workout. Yes, you should go hard and your workouts should have intensity, but the goal isn’t to go so hard you make your self puke with every pilgrimage to the gym.
Keep in mind the more you work out, the less you will experience DOMS. Again, it comes from applying a load to your muscles they are not used to. So as your muscles adapt DOMS will gradually lessen. Over time you will have to change the stress you apply to your muscles to earn that red badge of courage known as DOMS. Remember those super sets, drop sets, etc. we talked about in the last blog? Yeah, might be a good time for that. Hint, hint-wink,wink.
Can I Work Through D.O.M.S.?
“What if I am so sore after my last workout I can hardly move, should I skip my next workout?” This is a little dose of ‘tough love’ here but the best thing for you is to get back at it. We are talking about going easy here. With movement you are going to increase blood flow, which in turn will deliver much needed O2 and the nutrients your muscle needs to repair itself. It will be a rough, slow start and you may even feel like it is a pretty sad excuse of a workout but trust me your body will be a much happier camper after it’s over. When I raced bicycles back in the day the term commonly used for this type of workout was “active recovery."
Side-bar; do not confuse this with your “rest day." Rest is just as important as going hard. You need to recover from your week’s worth of working out! Think of it this way, if you roll into the next week already sore and tired this will hamper how effective your following work outs will be. Think big picture here. Try to start your weekly workout cycle fresh and ready to rock!