Claire, Carl + Chloe of 3CFitness are back with ways to speed up Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS!
Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS as you’ve more likely heard it said, is something most people have experienced in their lifetime. This is especially true if you are new to training, or have started to up the intensity in your session workload.
DOMS can range from uncomfortable to almost incapacitating (when any step feels like your own Everest climb...) Though muscle soreness is quite common in training, like when you start a new programme, have upped your weights/reps or have started something new, it is not a comfortable feeling and there are ways in which to decrease the discomfort. So, making sure you do all you can to counter it, is best for your body and training!
What causes DOMS?
Before we look at how to help recover from DOMS, it’s a good idea to understand exactly what it is.
When you train, you make small micro-tears in your muscles, and these are what cause pain and inflammation. This usually peaks about 24-72 hours after training, and is actually an important part of building muscle. As the muscles repair themselves, they get bigger and stronger.
However, the worse the DOMS doesn’t mean the bigger the gains! If anything, it’s counterproductive as you will be too sore to effectively follow your training programme. The frequency and intensity of muscle soreness can be down to a range of variables (i.e. training intensity, dehydration, sleep, even genetics), but it isn’t something that should be experienced every session.
You can experience DOMs from a range of workouts, but most commonly they will be felt through strength training, especially when focusing on the eccentric phase of lifting. Though it can also occur when you do more reps, volume or miles than you’re used to. Or even if you try a new class and push a bit harder than your body is conditioned (i.e. doing a spin class for the first time).
How to counter/recover from DOMS
So, now we understand what DOMS are a bit more and how they can be caused, what can we do to help ease or recover faster from them?
Your muscles are working hard and so need more oxygen, which comes from more blood pumping around your body. And with 82% of your blood volume actually being water, staying hydrated is key in helping your body repair itself!
A lack of electrolytes contributes to muscle soreness, so not only should you replenish liquid lost in training (i.e. sweat), try having coconut water or an electrolyte drink after training.
Also, try to avoid beverages that will dehydrate you further, such as caffeine and sugary drinks.
By increasing blood circulation, we get more oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your ‘injured’ muscles, helping to repair and restore the micro-tears you have made in training.
There are a few ways to help increase circulation, one is through warmth. Try taking a warm bath with epsom salts: the magnesium in epsom salts can be absorbed through the skin, aiding in muscle function and reducing soreness.
Another option is compression clothing, which puts pressure on your veins to help push blood around.
If you can do so safely, get a massage! Massages are shown to be highly effective in helping reduce inflammation and aid recovery in your muscles. Not only do massages increase circulation, they reduce muscle tightness and swelling and help stimulate mitochondria release. These tiny cells are what convert glucose to energy, essential for cell function and repair.
Get quality sleep
Sleep really is where the magic happens. It’s where our muscles are repaired, re-built and adapt ready to tackle another workout with more efficiency.
Muscle-building chemicals such as the Muscle-Growth Hormone are released whilst we are in our deep stages of sleep, so you need to aim for a minimum of 7hrs for this to be most effective.
A good sleep routine restores mind and body, so make sure that is your non-negotiable in your training week.
Finally... Movement! I know moving is the last thing you want to do when your body feels tight, heavy and sore, but gentle and restorative movement can be the most effective tool at your disposal for DOMS recovery.
Light exercise or gentle movement helps blood flow and to stretch your muscles. Though it may feel very tight and tough to begin with, stay with it, and things will start to ease and feel a bit easier to move.
Try walking, a light cycle, yoga or gentle stretching. All of this will help ease the pain and reduce stiffness in your muscles.
Get ahead of DOMS
Though DOMS are sometimes unavoidable, the intensity of them can be countered through a mix of the above points, and also making sure you adopt a healthy balance in your training. Over-training won’t just cause muscle soreness, it can lead to injury and even burnout, so train smart and recover smarter!
Check out more from Carl, Claire + Chloe of 3CFitness in their blogs about running and rest days!