In Jane Fonda’s 1980’s aerobics world, the slogan was “No pain. No gain.”. In other words, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is directly proportional to our fitness and muscle growth. Well, we’ve learned a lot since ole’ Jane led us through the butt-busting Rover’s Revenge, mainly that the old adage is a myth.
It is true that when we workout, especially strength training exercises, we cause microtrauma to the muscle fibers. (This has to happen in order for the muscle to grow.) This microtrauma in turn causes inflammation which results in muscle soreness. Though a certain degree of discomfort after a rough workout is normal and probably necessary, it’s a poor indicator of muscle growth, and it certainly can’t be used to measure the effectiveness of the workout. For one thing, too much microtrauma can cause injury and prevent future workouts from even happening. Plus, everyone is different. Just like some people burn calories faster than others, the degree of soreness can vary from person to person. Increased soreness doesn’t correspond to greater results and lack of soreness doesn’t mean the workout wasn’t effective.
That said, your students probably will experience some DOMS, especially if they are just starting out. You might want to remind them to go easy, and if they do wake up stiff and sore, to get up and move! Just 5 minutes of walking or low intensity exercises will help increase the blood flow and ease the muscle pain. Add in some light stretching, and they’ll be almost as good as new.