In the past couple weeks, I’ve embarked on a fitness journey. I’ve certainly have had my ups and downs and a lot of questions. I love the little routine that I currently have going (I am a creature of habit). I love getting stronger, lifting more, running faster and parts of me also enjoy a bit of muscle soreness. It’s bittersweet. I know I’ve worked hard, targeted a muscle group or pushed myself a little further every time I get muscle soreness. However, while I enjoy a bit of achiness, there is nothing worse when my legs are so sore, I can barely sit on the toilet, or when my arms are so sore, I can’t get dressed properly in the morning. This is delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). I do think this tends to happen more when you start working out more regularly. The first couple weeks are tough. Really tough, haha.
If you look at this in a positive light, DOMS can be an indication that you have worked very hard, you pushed yourself, and now your muscles are rebuilding themselves to be even stronger. Some people even take this a step further by thinking if they don’t experience DOMS they have not worked out hard enough, well this is incorrect. If you warm up, stretch and recover your body correctly, you can reduce the symptoms of DOMS even after an intense workout.
I’ve teamed up with a leading physiotherapist, Dan Jones, from Health & Sports Physiotherapy, for some tips and tricks on how to prevent and treat DOMS.
Take it away, doc.
DOMS tends to occur when you try a new training programme or intensifying your exercise. It is caused by tiny damage to your muscle fibres resulting in soreness and stiffness. However, next time you do the exercise, your body will have adapted, and you won’t be as sore – meaning your recovery time will be quicker than the first.
- Eat at the right time – Most research notes that you should eat 30-45 minutes after your work out, but also others note that pre-workout food is beneficial. My advice is that to try and get some protein or quick releasing straight after training to help aid your recovery, and never skip a meal. It is best to try and see what works for you, and be flexible. Keep a diary if that helps and note what changes to your routine made you feel better/worse.
- Hydrate – Always hydrate, before during and after a workout. Our muscles are mainly water so if you’re dehydrated your muscles will get tighter. If you’re feeling thirsty, it means you’re dehydrated, and if that is the case, your body will focus on surviving the condition rather than repairing it.
- Keep moving after a workout – Keeping active after a work out can help you avoid DOMS. Stretch, walk around do some body weight squats. For example, if it is leg DOMS you’re worried about, get out for a walk or a perform a light cycle session – as much as you may want to collapse on the sofa – active recovery is the best approach.
- Prep for your next work out – Try a bit of myofascial release, with a foam roller or something like Potters Muscle Rub, which contains essential oils like Rosemary, Wintergreen and Peppermint to help stimulate peripheral circulation and provide a soothing and revitalising effect. Use this alongside a small ball to trigger point tight muscles.
Myofascial Release is a safe and very effective hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the Myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion. – Source
- Sleep – Try and get 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night. Try an avoid technology before bed, read a book or think of positive experiences from the week. If you can relax, you will sleep and recover better. If you don’t get enough sleep, you simply won’t get the correct hormones to recover.
- Warm up/Cool Down – Take time to do proper warm ups and cool downs to increase blood flow to your muscles and loosen them – this will help to reduce injury and therefore muscle soreness. And remember, a cool down is just as important as a warm-up. Do not rush out of your class or work out. Reducing your heart rate and breathing gradually helps to cool your body, while also allowing your muscles time to reduce to their normal length and increase blood flow.
- Foam Rolling and muscle rub – One of the key things I recommend is self-myofascial relief for treating DOMS. You can try using a foam roller, or apply something like Potters Muscle Rub (review down below), which contains essential oils to help stimulate peripheral circulation and provide a soothing and revitalising effect, and massage out any tight knots out. While your muscles are repairing them after a workout, they can often become tight and sore, reducing muscle elasticity. Therefore, foam rolling, self-massage with a muscle rub and active stretch can help alleviate the pain of DOMS.
- Hot/Cold showers and ice baths – A mixture of hot and cold baths is another solution. Hot baths cause your blood vessels to expand, filling them with blood, while cold or ice baths constrict the blood vessels forcing the blood to move on to other parts of the body. A combination of the two flushes out the toxins and delivers nutrients carried in the blood quicker and more effectively to your muscles, which may speed up the recovery process.
- Eat Well – It is also advised that you eat well. It is essential to eat and stay hydrated after a work out as the nutrients and proteins will help you recover. The top food groups, which help, are carbohydrates, protein and antioxidants..
- Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates produce insulin which helps drive muscle growth, and also replace muscle and liver glycogen which helps refuel your energy supplies, helping the body aid recovery.
- Protein – Protein is a nutrient that is essential for muscle maintenance and repair. After a workout protein helps repair the muscle fibres, which reduce soreness and recovery time.
- Antioxidants – Foods like cherries and berries are high in antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and therefore soreness.
- Make sure you’re eating magnesium-rich foods (dark green veg, such as spinach and whole grains) and omega 3 fatty acids.
I personally also find that on the days, when I am sore, I enjoy light to mediate exercise. Getting the blood flowing in my sore muscles with some active recovery always tends to make me feel a lot better. On my painful days, I like to go swimming or partake in one of my usual exercise classes but push myself a little less. I know, when you’ve got sore legs the idea of squats might make you feel sick. I personally find that the soreness goes away about 5 mins into my workout once my muscles have warmed up. It’s also imperative to breathe right while exercising – get that oxygen to your muscles. According to one of my trainers at the gym I go to, this is very important at preventing DOMS.
Over the years I’ve tried multiple muscle rubs. I mean look at the state of the Deep Heat. I find all of them similar and in the sensation that you get, when you apply them – instant warming. This is quite similar to Potters Muscle Rub*, and it smells just as bad as the other muscle rubs. However, while using it I noticed few differences in the way it feels on my body in comparison to the other muscle rubs I own, I think this is why now I tend to reach for Potters Muscle Rub more often than the other muscle rubs I own.
At first, it feels cooling, it’s very different from other muscle rubs I’ve tried in the past. When it starts warming up, it’s not as intense as Deep Heat, for example. It feels more soothing than just warm, which over the years has been my issue with Deep Heat. It does warm up over time, but it’s not as intrusive. Sometimes, when I put Deep Heat on, I can barely fall asleep because of the warming sensation.
I also like that it’s not sticky, it’s light and has the consistency of a moisturiser. It absorbs very quickly in your skin, which is another benefit in comparison to other muscle rubs I’ve tried. Other brands tend to be waxy and sit on top of my skin, while this absorbs really well. I tend to use a muscle rub before bed, there is nothing worse than getting that all over my bed sheets – the smell doesn’t come out for days. Because Potters Muscle Rub absorbs right away, I don’t have that problem any more.
Have you got any tips or tricks that myself or the doc missed? Feel free to leave those below to help a sore soul out. Be kind to yourself and others.
Simona out. *dumbbell drop instead of a mic drop*