You open your eyes with a jolt as your alarm clock goes off in the morning, and as you reach to shut it up you’re met with a feeling far more excruciating than the rude awakening blaring in your ears. You haven’t been shot by a hundred pellets in your pectorals, and you haven’t taken a boulder to the lower back. No, instead you have delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS for short), and it’s going to make moving today quite difficult.
If you’re regularly doing outdoor fitness or boot camp exercise programs, odds are you’ve experienced the above situation, or something similar to it, multiple times before. Whether you’re new to fitness or have been working out for ages, we all experience DOMS at one point or another to various degrees. DOMS is natural, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore them or be passive when it comes to recovering. Today, we’re taking a look at what causes DOMS, and what are some simple approaches to handling them.
DOMS: The ‘Why’
So what causes that dull burning sensation known as muscle soreness that can potentially demobilize you after a workout? For starters, remember that anytime you’re using your muscles in a vigorous manner, as we do in exercise, your muscles are undergoing a process known as muscle metabolism. That is, your muscle cells are consuming energy in order to put out work at a fast pace. A byproduct of this process is lactic acid, which builds up in the muscles and can contribute to that post-workout soreness.
However, according to OnHealth.com, lactic acid isn’t the only culprit. In addition to lactic acid, inflammation can also occur because of the rush of cells to repair microscopic damage to your muscle tissue which in turn causes swelling and soreness.
DOMS: The Solution
DOMS might be a natural result of getting your work in, but that doesn’t mean you just have to sit there and suffer. Especially if you’re eager to get back in the game and have some particularly cumbersome DOMS, you want to be proactive about minimizing your soreness.
However, before we get into how to ease DOMS, we should mention that there is a difference between DOMS and being seriously injured, and you should definitely consult a doctor if you think you may be injured instead of just dealing with DOMS.
Three simple things to help with DOMS: stretching, hydration, and moving!
First, stretching. It sounds elementary, but it can’t be understated: you need to stretch. Stretching is necessary both before and after a workout regardless of activity type. Many of our initial problems with DOMS stem from not warming up properly and excessive damage to our muscles come as a result.
Second, hydrate. Lack of hydration can cause cramps and excessive soreness. Make sure you’re drinking water during a workout and spending time replenishing fluids afterwards as well.
Third, move! Even when you have DOMS, make sure to ease the muscles back into activity by doing some light movement the day after your workout making sure to use the same muscles you worked the day before. You shouldn’t be piling on resistance for these movements, but working those sore muscles before you step back into the gym can do wonders for DOMS.
These are just three of the simplest solutions to DOMS, but looking at other methods like self-massaging, foam rollers, and upping your protein intake can also be considered. Whatever your level of DOMS, being proactive about minimizing them will have you off the couch and back into your boot camp ASAP!