You came to aerial class, you crushed it, you rocked out, you were climbing, you were straddling, yes you even nailed a couple of tricks... You feel great, you feel badass, you feel awesome... until you wake up the next morning, or morning after that, barely able to move!
You're like owwwwwww jeez what happened... I kind of hurt all over in weird sorts of places.
These are some very common feedbacks I get… 'I loved it – but I couldn’t move my arms for days' or 'that was great fun - but now I can’t lift my coffee cup' or 'awesome class but now it hurts to laugh!'...
Welcome to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (or DOMS for short)...
This my friend is what happens when you do any activity that your muscles aren’t used to doing (or do it in a much more strenuous way than you are used to) which leads to the body having to make adaptations to cope. As in get strong fast so it can be better able to perform the task the next time.
Basically it’s a good thing!
The soreness usually kicks in from as soon as 8 hours post-class, and peaks around the 48 hour mark. Yeah I know it can mean a few days (or even up to a week) of sort of an annoying pain every time you need to do the simplest of things (like put your jacket on). But actually this soreness translates to progress... yes my friend this annoying process actually means that you're installing much needed aerial muscles.
No pain no gain…
This soreness is perfectly normal and the aches and pains should be minor, and are simply indications that muscles are adapting. If however, soreness prevents you from performing daily activities associated with living and work, then that’s a sign that you're overdoing it and you need to go easy on yourself in class.
And if you've not had any DOMS at all - it's not because you didn't work hard enough in class... Some people just get it worse than others. People can be no-responders, low-responders or high-responders to soreness. If you’re a high-responder, you will experience DOMS more acutely than someone who is a no or low-responder when given the same training. While you can’t change your genes, it is important to know where you fall on the spectrum to understand how your body may respond to different types of exercise.
You may also get no DOMS at all simply because you've got the strength you need already. For example if you're a climber, gymnast or gym fanatic you may have a ton of upper body strength already and not feel a thing. Dancers whilst being super fit - may still not have the upper body strength needed for aerial, and hence experience soreness in their arms and lats whereas perhaps not so much in the abs and back. Anyway I think you get the idea.
What exactly is DOMS?
DOMS is mild muscle strain injury that creates microscopic tears to the muscle fibres which leads to mild muscle pain. Scientists believe it's this damage coupled with the inflammation that accompanies these tears that causes the pain.
Another common symptom of DOMS, beside the pain, is swelling in the muscles. You might notice that your muscles appear bigger than before. This isn’t because you’ve miraculously gained visible muscle mass in just one class, but rather because your muscles are swelling as a response to the microscopic muscle tears and creating inflammation around the affected area.
The bad news…
The swelling, inflammation and pain can build up for days after a workout, and that’s why muscle soreness may be worse two, three, or even four days after a workout (it can take up to five days for muscles to heal completely depending on the intensity of the class). If your level of soreness does not go down significantly after 3 - 4 days and if the pain becomes debilitating, you should see your doctor.
The good news…
Once you have exercised in this specific way a few times and allowed your muscles to recover, you probably won’t get sore again as long as you do it regularly. My advice to you is that while you're sore take it easy – let your muscles recover. Do some stretching or cross train another exercise such as running or cycling.
The good the bad and the ugly...
It is important to distinguish the difference between moderate muscle soreness induced by exercise - the ‘good type’ of sore, and muscle overuse - the ‘bad sore’ when you're completely overdoing it, or worse still injury - the downright ‘ugly sore’ which I sincerely hope you never have to go through.
If it’s an injury you'll feel it immediately - something that should never be ignored and always checked with a physio. An injury will likely limit your range of motion and last longer than three days. Soreness, on the other hand, will appear gradually, often the next day and the day after.
So in a nutshell think of it like this - if you’re sore today it means you'll be stronger next week! Please do not let the soreness put you off - it's perfectly normal. It's sort of a wake up call to your muscles. After a few sessions of climbing, straddle inverts and tuck throughs it will be like ooooh hello muscles and before you know it soreness will be a thing of the past.
Ten top tips to help with muscle soreness
1.) Ease yourself in
One of the best ways to decrease the risk of DOMS is to slowly progress into a new exercise. So my advice to you is not to go all out and crazy in your first class. Yes I know it’s all new and exciting but do yourself a favour and build things up slowly. This allows the muscles time to adjust to a new movement and leaves room for more adaptation.
2.) Muscle rub
Probably not what you want to be doing once the soreness has set in as it will be too painful. However a quick muscle rub after class will help increase the blood flow and bring fresh oxygen and healing nutrients to the muscles, so that they can do the necessary repair work.
I always have almond oil mixed with some essential oils at the ready (rosemary, black pepper, eucalyptus, ginger and lavender are all personal faves for the muscles). I also find Doterra's Deep Blue Muscle blend is amazing. Arnica oil is also great if there is any bruising.
3.) Foam roll
Again possibly a bit too painful on freshly sore muscles but once they start to recover get in there with a foam roller. Studies have shown foam rolling can enhance recovery after DOMS and alleviate muscle tenderness, plus it’s an affordable, easy, and time-efficient way to boost recovery.
4.) Hot bath
Yes totally awesome and essential for helping muscles relax and repair. Just for the record I find chucking in a handful of epsom salts (renowned for easing muscle strain) along with the yummy oils mentioned above an essential addition to the bath mix..
5.) Sauna / jacuzzi / hot tub
I am a massive fan of these – in fact I can’t get enough of them. Any opportunity to get a good sweat on and I’m there. When my body feels tired, sore or wiped out after training, a good sauna session will usually sort it right out. Be sure to drink gallons of water while you do this so you don't dehydrate.
6.) Low intensity workouts
Try some light exercise such as walking or swimming. Keeping the muscle in motion can provide some relief. My favourite antidote to muscle soreness is a hot yoga class. Great to get into a slow, relaxing stretch with the added bonus of heat to help sooth the muscles.
7.) High intensity workouts
For the fitness nutters out there you can also continue to do high intensity workouts to reduce muscle soreness, sounds somewhat counter intuitive I know. But apparently this helps because you get exercise-induced analgesia which is when your body increases pain tolerance thresholds as a response to exercise. Basically go hard and smash through those pain barriers!
8.) Cross train
So if it’s post-aerial class and you're suffering it’s going to be in your arms, abs, lats, chest. So take it easy and train other parts of your body, for example go running or cycling and use your leg muscles. This is why athletes often cross-train and vary their routines to continue to challenge and develop their muscle strength.
9.) Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Finally it's recommended to take the supplement Omega-3, which is a fatty acid found in fish. There are a ton of studies to show taking omega-3 is good for you in many ways, including muscle stiffness, joint pain and dealing with DOMS.
10.) High nutritional meals
Just a quick note on this - hopefully you already eat a lot of highly nutritional meals anyway… However now that you’re training aerial it’s more important than ever that you give your body the nutrients it needs. Firstly for energy for class but also for muscle recovery after.
1. Roll Out After Working Out
With that being said, our warm-up and cool-down routines should focus primarily on mobility exercises that are weight bearing, multi-joint movements and should encourage us to progressively move through a full range of motion.
An example of an excellent warm-up/cool down for aerialists is Vinyasa Yoga which co-ordinates the breath with fluid, full-body movements and stretches.
If you feel that you need more time before and after aerial class to thoroughly warm up and cool down, arrive 15 minutes early and stay late in order to effectively activate and stretch every muscle and joint.
3. Eat Protein Before Training
Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle tissue, and we need to consume protein to give our bodies enough to rebuild and maintain muscles damaged during training sessions. Having a small amount of protein before class/training can trigger our bodies to start muscle synthesis (repairing and building more muscle) throughout and even after working out.
4. Try Cold Therapy
While it might be a scary prospect, research suggests taking a cold, full-body plunge after working out can significantly reduce soreness and inflammation for up to 24 hours after exercise.
Over the years we have experimented with Cryotherapy treatment to speed up muscle restoration and are big fans of this relatively new recovery tool (recommended by the LA Lakers and Tony Robins among others). If you don’t have access to a Cryotherapy chamber (or the thought of freezing your entire body for 2 minutes doesn’t sound appealing) stick with the ice baths and/or ice packs to help those sore aerial muscles recover faster and stay healthy and strong.
5. During and After Your Workout: Hydrate
It might sound obvious, but staying hydrated is an important aspect of muscle recovery. Water keeps the fluids moving through your system, which can help ease inflammation, flush out waste products, and deliver to your muscles the nutrients they need.
6. Get More Sleep
Sleep is critical for many reasons, but it’s also one of the most important components of exercise recovery.
Non–rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, for example, increases protein synthesis (the creation of new proteins), which is needed to repair damaged muscles, according to a review published in Sports Medicine.
Research also suggests that taking a nap around two hours after a workout helps the body enter deep, restorative states of sleep.
Here at Womack and Bowman we LOVE a 15-25 minute nap after training/rehearsing on a performance day as it helps restore and energize our bodies ready for the show to come.
Take care of your muscles and they will continue to help you climb, flip, bend and fly for years to come!