This blog is all about Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, affectionately known as DOMS!
We've had it. Some of us dread it, some of us bask in it! That super tight, super sore stretching sensation we get when trying to sitting on the toilet after leg day or taking a top off after arm day. But what is the soreness and is it actually good for us?
What is DOMS?
DOMS occurs after training or working out due to tiny micro tears in our muscle fibres. In order to build muscles we actually need to break them down slightly so they can repair and rebuild bigger and better. These micro-tears provoke an inflammatory reaction throughout your muscles which in turn provokes a vascular response. Your blood cells flood to your muscles in order to help to heal the soreness and the micro-tears giving us that very creaky stiff sore feeling especially when we haven't been moving!
This leads us on to...
What should we do about it?
The first thing that usually helps ease DOMS is to get moving. By this I don't mean throwing yourself into your next CrossFit WOD or trying to PB again the next day. I mean LISS - Low Intensity Steady State movement to gently start to regain your normal range of movement. Get walking! It is a great way to start!
Secondly - and not everyones favourite - is to dust off the old foam roller! Go gently. Roll each muscle group in turn, pausing on super tight spots and easing yourself onto the roller more as the pain starts to melt away!
Next we need to try and regain some range of movement. Stretch! Again go gently. Work you way slowly into your full range of movement - you may not even be able to get there while DOMS is at its peak! This is important. If your DOMS is preventing you for reaching ultimate form then hold back on training those movements until you can. Pushing through or forcing your body when it isn't able to work efficiently may lead to injury.
What you will hopefully find is that once you have got going, going gets much easier!
However DOMS has a nasty habit of getting worse before it gets better! It will often peak on the second day after you have trained having left you in a false sense of security the night before as you spring into bed much more easily than you got out of it that morning!
So a few other tips:
Diet. Yes you can help your soreness by what you eat!
Aim for foods that are high in protein to build you muscles. Eggs in particular are a great source of protein and great for helping to combat muscle soreness.
Also makes sure you get a good source of Omega 3. Omega 3s are known for fighting inflammation, boosting blood flow to muscles during and after exercise, decreasing muscle soreness and reducing swelling. Reach for the oily fish - salmon, sardines, mackerel or trout.
Berries - These little beauties provide us with energy to help us with subsequent workouts. They are packed with anti-oxidants and vitamins (such as A, C and E) which help to protect cells from disease. They also contain resveratrol which can help lower inflammation.
Leafy greens are also full of antioxidants as well as tons of other nutrients such as calcium, B vitamins and magnesium which all aid muscle repair.
Speaking of Magnesium, my next tip is to take an Epsom Salts bath. The Magnesium in epsom salts helps to widen your blood vessels to help boost your recovery! To go wallow in a hot bath with the target area submerged for at least 20 minutes.
As well as heat cold therapy can also be useful so if you can stand run yourself a cold bath and sit in it for as long as you can cope! Many athletes swear by ice baths and you will often see top athletes jumping into a vat of ice cubes after an event.
So how can we prevent DOMS in the first place?
It may not be easy to avoid DOMS altogether but there are definitely steps that you can take to help reduce its intensity:
Stay Hydrated! Drink water before, during and after your work out. Aim for at least 2 litres of water a day - more if its warm and you are training.
Warm Up. Use dynamic stretching to during your warm up. Go through all the ranges of movement that you will be loading to make sure that your body has a good range of movement before you start.
Cool Down - A twenty minute cool down or LISS cycling or walking can help to lessen soreness in the legs after a heavy leg day. Don't forget to stretch to. This may not lessen the DOMS but it will help to maintain your flexibility.
Take is Slowly - Leave your ego at the door! Throwing stupid weights around just to beat your buddy is not cool or clever. Train at your own pace and step up the intensity when you are ready one small step at a time.
To conclude - be patient! DOMS will subside! Have a bath, move gently and fuel your body the correct way and you will be back to it in no time!