Soreness: The Price We Pay For Slacking Off

Soreness is a punishment for taking it too easy, but it can also be something of a gift.

Right now, I’m fairly sore. In a little while, I’ll venture out to the gym, brave the Black Friday traffic (the gym is near a lot of the places people want to shop) and hit legs.

Then I’ll be sore for the next two days.

At the risk of sounding like a masochist, I actually deserve this. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the price I’m paying for slacking off for a week or so.

I’ll be honest. I’m really not looking forward to the next two days. Leg soreness seems to always be worse than any other muscle part. Much of that has to do with the large size of the leg muscles. Some of it is that it’s impossible to not use your legs when they hurt.

My house isn’t exactly wheelchair friendly.

But, I’m going to do it. I’ll train my legs and I’ll hurt for two days, then next week, I’ll do it all over again.

Only then, I won’t hurt.

When you look up information on DOMS, you’ll find tons of information on the physiology involved in the process. Your body is reacting to the microscopic damage you’ve done to it through training and it will begin the process of adaptation which makes muscles stronger and bigger.

But to me, the reality of DOMS is much more simple.

It’s punishment for slacking off before in your training.

Now, this is based on my own experience, but when you train hard and train completely, you deal with muscle soreness for the first week or so, at most, and then you don’t really get sore after that. Your muscles get used to the training and so they don’t cause pain as they adapt to the training stimulus.

Even after a deload, you’re still providing a training stimulus to your body and you’re making a positive move forward. It’s like your body knows and understands, even approves.

But when you take a week or two (or longer) off, the muscles lose that. They think you’re done beating them up and they get used to doing almost nothing.

Then you start back, and the pain comes.

Your muscles don’t like this. It’s not the training that’s the problem, otherwise, they’d never stop being sore. No, it’s the idea that your training is a “whenever you get around to it” kind of thing.

DOMS is a punishment, a warning that you shouldn’t slack off on your training, that you have made a commitment and don’t you dare back off on it again.

Which, of course, we all do and will continue to do. That’s because we’re humans who screw up an awful lot and who often make stupid decisions (see also: the mullet).

And when we do, DOMS will be there like a dominatrix with a bullwhip (and no, I don’t think the fact that the acronym shares the first syllable with the word “dominatrix” is entirely coincidental). It’ll punish us for not maintaining our fidelity.

That means we have two options, though. Deal with it and push through the pain or retire and think, “Nope. That’s too hard.”

Well, it’s a gut check. But if you’re so mentally weak that you can’t endure a week or two of discomfort, then you have no business even trying to be anything other than a doormat.

After all, if you can’t push through DOMS, how are you going to prepare yourself for all the difficulties you’re going to face in life? How are you going to muster the courage to stand up to an attacker, or to hold your ground against a bullying co-worker? How are you going to deal with a jerk of a significant other?

So, in a manner of speaking, DOMS is a punishment, but it’s also a gift. It’s an opportunity to push through discomfort and embrace the suck, so to speak.

In a little while from when I finish this post, I’ll grab my stuff and head to the gym. I’ll train my legs, hit the treadmill for a little while, then come home. Tomorrow, I’ll get up and deal with my sore legs and go for my walk around the neighborhood. Then I’ll come home and pull the sled for a little while, then walk again Sunday when the pain is even worse.

I’ll deal with it because I kind of deserve the pain. I should have kept my butt training, but I didn’t. That’s on me.

I’m being punished, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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