Up to 72 hours after running, you can experience Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). DOMS manifests as pain and stiffness felt in the muscles several hours to days after strenuous exercise. The soreness is thought to be caused by eccentric exercises, which are exercises that lengthen your muscles. Some of our muscles work eccentrically while we run. The strain from the eccentric contraction causes microtrauma to the muscles fibers and results in muscle pain and soreness.
I suggest starting out with a warm-up on the elliptical machine or stationary bike followed by stretching and foam-rolling your legs. This will help to loosen up any preliminary stiffness throughout your muscles. If your pain lasts for longer than 72 hours, you should see an orthopedic medical doctor for more specific diagnoses and treatment.
Erin Corbo, PT, DPT, OCS, is a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Intergrative Care Center. She is a lifelong runner and has completed one marathon and numerous half marathons. Erin specializes in runner’s injuries, as well as general orthopedic injuries.