Dealing with DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

I was at Blush dance studios on Friday for a taster session of aerial hoops and pole dancing. It was great fun, I was pleased with all that I could do (may not have been effortless but at least I could do it!!) and I loved trying something completely new.

I really expected to be covered in bruises the next day as I could feel them forming but what I didn't expect was just how much I would ache!

This is the known as DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness - and is usually experienced when:
  • trying out a new activity
  • upping the intensity in your normal routine - heavier weights, longer runs
  • getting back into exercise after a long break

What causes DOMS?

When I first trained as a fitness instructor I was taught that DOMS was caused by a build up of lactic acid in the muscles but now that's not thought to be the case.  Instead causes are:
  • Tiny tears in the muscle fibres
  • Changes in the balance of enzymes in the muscle
It's worth keeping in mind what activities you will have to do afterwards - soreness is usually worse the 24-72 hours after the exercise. I had a weekend to recover but driving was painful as my biceps hurt so much it was hard to pull the handbrake on!!

So if you're looking after a baby for example, you don't want to push it too far your first time back and find you can't cope with lifting a car seat, bending to change nappies or getting up off the floor! And it doesn't mean you haven't worked hard enough if you don't feel it - DOMS is an extreme response and can be avoided by building up slowly.

If you do feel sore, best ways to deal with it:
  1. hydration - drink plenty of water
  2. warm bath/shower
  3. massage - by hand, massage stick or foam roller
  4. sauna (yes please!)
  5. magnesium - can use a spray direct onto area, Epsom salts in the bath (see number 2) or take orally
  6. low intensity exercise - for example gentle walking or swimming
Stretching has not been shown to be effective for DOMS. It is fine to exercise the next day though - it can temporarily alleviate the soreness and won't make things worse.

The good news is that one bout of DOMS is supposed to protect you for the future. So next time won't be as bad - so don't let DOMS put you off!!


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