I've got three very good reasons for writing about DOMS.
The first is that I just ran the furthest I've ever run in my life and I'm wondering if I'm going to be able to get off the couch in an hour to go and pick up the kids.
The second is that I've just spent the weekend with a friend who was in complete agony (I felt sorry for her as I laughed) trying to get up and down a very steep flight of stairs leading in and out of our conference room due to a very intense workout.
The third is that it is an absolutely beautiful day out there today! You're probably looking out the window and thinking about digging out the road or mountain bike, taking the dog for a walk or getting back into running. Then there's the garden!
You'll feel great! The air will be fresh, the sun will be shining (maybe), the birds will be singing… and you'll do a bit more and maybe go a little further than you really should when you're getting back into it.
And then your friend DOMS is guaranteed to visit.
DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, hits you 24-72 hours after you exert yourself past your normal level. It might be just a general soreness, or it might be agonising.
DOMS is actually inflammation, which explains the discomfort. When you exercise past your normal level, you'll cause tiny tears in your muscle tissue as you ask that tissue to work harder than normal. This causes the body to hit the panic button and an inflammatory state occurs as your body works to heal all these microscopic tears. (The pain you feel is a result of the tears heightening the nociceptor sensations which then heighten pain sensations… in case you were wondering about that bit.)
This sounds bad right? So why do we ever allow this to happen? Should we just stay on the couch? Nope. Because the next thing that happens is that your very clever body sorts out the inflammation and in doing so makes the muscle tissue stronger so you'll be able to handle this new level of movement and endurance. As long as you haven't overdone it so badly that you never want to exercise again (like my friend who was even worse at the end of our weekend than she'd been at the beginning), then DOMS is usually something you'll survive.
Here are some DOMS survival tips:
- Magnesium. Marvellous magnesium is well known to help with muscle soreness. If you're suffering DOMS regularly, get to a health professional so we can check that magnesium deficiency is a likely contributor and not something more serious. Magnesium is available in tablets or as a powder you can dissolve in water to drink.
- Hot water. Taking a bath relaxes tissue and increases circulation. Even better is taking a bath with Epsom Salts and Essential Oils like Lavender.
- Keep your water intake up. Water will help flush the metabolic waste created by DOMS out of your body.
- Keep moving! When you keep moving (gently!) you're helping your body to more effectively expel metabolic waste from cells. The more this happens, the sooner you'll be over your DOMS.
- Massage. Whether you go out and get a Remedial Massage or you just rub some kind of linement in yourself, massage will increase circulation and help with expelling metabolic waste like movement and water will. My preference is to grab some liquid coconut oil and add a few drops of wintergreen, juniper, Peppermint, Helichrysm and Lavender and apply it to my feet and legs… bliss.
So while I mix myself up some magnesium, drink a litre of water and massage my own legs, would someone like to pick my kids up from school? Hang on, I need to keep moving as well. Better get off the couch then and remind myself that I'll feel stronger (but maybe even more sore) tomorrow!