AKA that sore feeling you get in the days after training a new activity, or increasing the intensity of your training.
I’m going to tell you a few ways to avoid the worst of your DOMS, and to assist in your recovery when you do get them. First of all though, let’s get a few things straight about DOMS.
Misonception 1- It’s Lactic Acid.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness has little or nothing to do with Lactic Acid. A common misconception. The feeling of “going lactic”, the burning sensation in your muscles as you reach the final few metres of your sprint, or push out more repetitions is lactic acid flooding your muscle, but this has little to do with the soreness you feel the next day.
Misonception 2- If you don’t get DOMS, you haven’t worked hard enough.
Some muscle soreness or stiffness is usually inevitable when you’re training hard, but measuring your success by how sore you are is a poor metric for any goal. Focus on what happened during the time you were training, not how you felt afterwards.
Misconception 3- I’ll be like this EVERY TIME!
If you’ve just started a new sport, you’re going to feel pretty sore the next day, even if you’re fit. After playing some 5 a side football recently I had the worst DOMS I’d had in a long time, despite being in good physical condition. But your adaptation period, as long as you keep the activity up, will be short, and you’ll find you’re less sore after each session.
As I said above, some soreness is almost inevitable, and I would say that some soreness is absolutely inevitable when you start a new activity or programme. But there are a few ways to mitigate against it. Try these.
1. Warm up well.
A good warm up increases blood flow to the muscles and tissues, makes them more flexible and compliant, and can decrease the soreness you feel the next day.
2. Avoid big leaps in intensity
I should preface that with “As much as possible…” There’ll occasionally be a step up in the intensity of you training (think pre-season, a change of programme, or starting out in a new activity), but it’s best to ramp up to those changes progressively of you want to avoid being sore.
3. Warm Down
aka Cool down. Take some time to bring your heart rate down, and then stretch well afterwards.
Recovering from DOMS
Let’s suppose you’re already screwed. You’ve done the ill-advised extra set of squats, played the extra game or done the extra rounds. Here are my top 3 tips for recovering from DOMS.
1. Don’t rust.
Keep active and moving. Try doing some light aerobic work the next day such as walking or Yoga. If you’re due to train the next day (or two) don’t judge your soreness until you’ve warmed up again. A lot of times, you’ll find that you feel much better and able to train once you’ve warmed up a bit.
2. Post Training Nutrition
You should always eat after training, no matter how late it is. Within 30 minutes, you should be consuming some simple sugars from fruit or recovery drinks. Within 90 minutes, a balanced meal. Proper nutrition aids recovery.
Put simply, there’s nothing better for recovery than a solid 8 hours in bed. If you’ve just trained hard, tonight is not the night to break out the new box-set. It’s time for some grub and some shut eye.
There are other methods, such as compression clothing, icing and so on, and in truth, you’ll probably need to find the cocktail of methods that best suits you, but the above 3 are a must in my humble opinion.
As a final note of caution, remember that soreness and injury are two different things. You have to learn to tell the difference yourself. A reasonable definition of the difference is that when you’re sore, you’ll still have all the functions of your body, they’ll just be difficult to do, and you might find yourself making involuntary noises when standing up or sitting down. When you’re injured, you’ll lose function in some way and experience pain when trying to move.