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Using Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) to Measure Hiking Training Load

Updated: Feb 19, 2022

If you're training for hiking, you need to use enough weight to stimulate muscle growth. The problem is that most people either don't train with enough load or undertake a strength training program that is way too advanced for them. Clients repeatedly tell me about workouts (and trainers) that push them too hard. After training sessions they become so sore they end up quitting. So, where is the sweet spot between enough resistance to get stronger but not so much it feels like a detriment to your body?

There are a couple of ways to measure this, but the easiest (meaning no math involved) is to factor in how your body responds to training. Resistance training breaks down muscle to stimulate growth. Eccentric (or lengthening) contractions induce greater DOMS than concentric or isometric.

Your muscles shouldn't hurt while you're working out, but you'll likely feel it later that day or the next. This soreness that shows up the next day is given the name delayed-onset soreness. Your muscles can be a little tender to touch and mildly uncomfortable when you move and stretch. The discomfort may be worse the second day after training. You've likely felt this soreness after undertaking a big hike that you might not have trained for. The muscles most affected are usually the calves and quads because they work eccentrically on the descent.

What does it mean?

Feeling DOMS after a workout means you've experienced some muscle damage. If you're at the right training level, that feeling shouldn't last more than two days. Any longer, you've probably exceeded an appropriate training load for your tissues to tolerate.

If you work out and you don't experience DOMS, don't worry! It means your muscles have adapted to the training load. The workout is still effective at improving your fitness even if you don't have DOMS afterward. However, you might want to consider increasing your training load by doing more reps or heavier weights next time.

Not sure your workout is effective?

If you're training but not getting the results you want, you might not be using an appropriate training load. Message me, and let's talk about how The Healthy Hiker Virtual Training Program can help you get the results you're looking for!

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