Exercise is a beautiful thing. It can provide clarity of thought, an extra boost of energy to help get you through the day, and a sense of accomplishment when the last mile and/or final rep is completed.
Not to mention, try working out consistently for a few weeks and tell me you don’t feel just a little bit better and enjoy your reflection in the mirror just a little bit more!
There are SO many benefits to exercise, but, if we’re being honest, there are a few downsides as well… Namely, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness also known as DOMS.
You know what I’m talking about… DOMS is that pesky soreness that “magically” appears a day or 2 after your first Barre class, new weight training routine, or first morning run after the family summer vacation. Sometimes it feels like you can barely move!
Many are under the false impression that DOMS is caused by lactic acid and if you thought that too, it’s understandable.
Researchers did once believe DOMS to be caused by lactic acid, and a buildup of lactic acid does cause the “burn” felt during your last rep. But new studies have shown that acid levels return to normal within 60 minutes of exercise completion and are not a contributing factor to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
In truth, we experience DOMS because of microscopic damage to our muscle fibers and the natural inflammation that follows.
The result is that annoying muscle discomfort which, depending on your workout, can range from mild soreness to I-think-I’ll-stay-in bed-all-day kind of muscle pain.
Researchers have determined that certain exercises are more likely to cause DOMS than others. According to Jon Mike, a PhD candidate in Exercise Science at the University of New Mexico…
“Eccentric muscle contraction is more likely to be the culprit because it places a higher load on your muscles.”
A good example of an eccentric muscle contraction exercise is a bicep curl… the eccentric part happening when the arm muscles lengthen as you slowly lower the dumbbell and resist the weight.
Running downhill is another example; your legs muscles work to slow your momentum so you don’t go head-over-heels down the slope.
These eccentric exercises, when done correctly, have been proven to have the most impact on muscle development - so it’s no surprise they’re also the leading cause in muscle soreness!
DOMS is a natural ailment that will typically go away on it’s own after few days. But there are a few tricks to ease your discomfort and potentially allow your muscles to heal more quickly…
Stay hydrated. That’s right, good ol’ H2O is a key factor in the fight against DOMS! Without a sufficient amount of water, the cells in your muscles won’t be able to properly repair damaged tissue through protein synthesis.
Feed yourself. Water alone won’t keep DOMS at bay. You need to provide your body with vital nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and antioxidants to help refuel and repair your muscles. Might I suggest a post-workout protein shake?
Sleep on it. Your body needs rest to recover from DOMS and is best able to restore itself during a quality night’s sleep. Don’t overlook the importance of your beauty rest in the recovery process!
Feeling bold? Try a contrast shower… A fancy term for alternating the water’s temperature from warm to cold in a series of timed intervals. This technique works by opening and closing blood vessels creating a “pumping” action that decreases pain and inflammation in muscle tissue.
Keep moving. This may sound counterintuitive, but a light workout - yoga, pilates, a quick jog, etc. - can greatly reduce soreness. This is because exercise gets the blood pumping, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the sore muscles.
Maybe it’s just time to pamper yourself! Research has shown that a gentle massage of the aggravated muscles activates inflammation reducing genes. If you’re experiencing muscle soreness due to your latest workout, consider booking a session with the local massage therapist!
Feelin’ foamy? If a professional message just doesn’t fit the budget right now, you can go a long way on your own with just a foam roller! Try lightly rolling over each major muscle group and see how you feel.
All in all, DOMS is a small price to pay for the numerous benefits associated with consistent exercise. But, if it does happen to be putting a damper on your day, try combatting it with the above tricks!
* Quote originally given to Christina Yu for the Daily Burn blog