Welcome to 2015! If you, like many others are planning on taking your exercise regime up a gear for the new year, you are likely to encounter that old friend; delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
This is the name given to the soreness experienced in our muscles in the 72 hours following exercise. It is caused by microtrauma to the muscle fibres. DOMS is actually a mechanism used by your muscles to stop you from carrying out more intense exercise, so that they have time to recover. It is a perfectly natural part of muscle development and whilst the muscle fibres are healing, they strengthen to prevent future soreness from similar levels of exercise.
So, we are reassured that DOMS is not causing us any damage, and is in fact a good indicator that we are building up our muscles. However, nobody likes losing the ability to climb the stairs the day after a work out. There is little consensus about prevention and treatment of DOMS, but here are some tips that I personally believe can help:
1. Warm up. Let your muscles know your intentions before starting out. Warming up allows for increased blood flow to your muscles, and increases body temperature, reducing the risk of injury and lessening the effects of DOMS.
2. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Remember this from your first aid course? The same applies to treating DOMS. This brilliant little combination can reduce inflammation and aid muscle recovery after exercise. Do not over ice a muscle after a work out. A few minutes should be enough to do the trick. If you’re feeling brave, turn the temperature of your shower right down and use the cold water to do job instead of ice (and if you’re feeling really brave – or you live in the tropics – try a couple of minutes in an ice bath).
3. Protein. Our bodies use protein to make amino acids, and muscles are repaired using amino acids. The rate of repair depends on the availability of amino acids, so protein is essential.
Some people will be surprised to learn that protein comes in other forms than just shakes. It is always best to get our dietary requirements from our food, rather than supplements, so here is a nice list of some protein-rich foods to add to your shopping lists! http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-highest-in-protein.php
4. Walk it off. You would be surprised by how effective this is, if you haven’t tried it before. Some light exercise (a walk for example) can help to reduce the effects of DOMS by increasing circulation to the affected areas and subsequently promoting muscle repair.
5. Sports Massage. It doesn’t work for everyone, it has to be said, but sports massage has been proven to promote muscle healing. The effects of Sports Massage are to increase circulation, which carries essential amino acids to the muscles for repair, and helps the muscles to rid themselves of waste products such as lactic acid.
I wish you all the best of luck with all your endeavours in 2015, it is time to get fitter, faster and stronger!
*I am a mobile sports massage therapist doing sports massage in Fleet, Alton, Farnham and the surrounding areas (Hampshire/Surrey).