Places Pointer: DOMS

A guide to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Feel like your muscles tend to ache or stiffen for a few days after exercising? You’re not alone!

This is widely known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, and occurs as an adaptive response to stress. When we exercise, we intentionally damage cells (this isn’t as scary as it sounds – promise!), especially if we exercise infrequently or suddenly work out with a higher intensity than we’re used to. This is where DOMS then sets in.

DOMS typically presents itself as a sore, aching feeling in the muscles you previously exercised. It can affect people of all fitness levels and abilities, particularly if you’ve tried out a new activity or pushed yourself a little harder than usual. While DOMS has a bad reputation due to the discomfort it brings, it makes up quite an important part of our body’s natural repair and growth processes!

Resistance training is often seen as the culprit for what causes DOMS, but that isn’t always the case. You can also experience DOMS after you’ve upped your distance while going for a run, or after any other kind of aerobic activity that’s done with high intensity.

So, what do you do once you have DOMS? Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix for the aches and pains it brings, but there are a few post-workout soothers that can help ease them:

Prioritise recovery

Taking a day or two out from exercising gives your body the chance to repair itself and replenish your energy. If you still want to keep your body moving, it’s okay to do your regular form of exercise, just dial down the intensity. Activities such as walking or swimming are some good options.

Assess nutrition

Ensure you’re getting enough nutrients to fuel and replenish your muscles and energy stores. Generally, protein helps with muscle repair and carbohydrates are a huge source of energy. Be sure to hydrate with water and electrolytes too!

Plan your exercise

The soreness of DOMS can impact your ability to continue exercising, which can lead to a decrease in motivation. This is why it’s important to plan your rest days so that they coincide around the time that DOMS kicks in, which is usually 24-72 hours after exercising.

Get foam rolling

Applying pressure to specific points in the body by using this easily purchasable piece of equipment can help increase blood flow, create better mobility, and release muscle tightness and trigger points. Roll the worries away!

Now you’re aware of DOMS, you’re probably thinking of all the times you’ve felt it! Keep in mind that having DOMS doesn’t equate to having a successful session though, you can still work hard without feeling sore. No matter the type of exercise you’re doing, it’s all about building the intensity up slowly but surely.

Sources: Delayed onset muscle soreness : treatment strategies and performance factors (National Library of Medicine) | What to Know About Active Recovery Workouts (WedMD) | Pain and injuries after exercise (NHS Inform) | Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): What is it, and how can it be minimised? (Science for Sport)

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