So you may be a new gym-goer or you are coming back after a break from lifting.
You step into the gym, slinging weights like a pro and making some progress. You stop a few times and drink some water, you check out that girl that's been on the lat pull-down machine forever, and here comes your training partner finally.
You finish your session, jump on the treadmill and creep out on some of the chicks down there stretching and bouncing around on the Swiss ball. You smash your protein shake on the way home, only after stopping at Chik-Fil-A because you know you deserve it.
You sleep like a log and you wake up... And it hits you. You are sore and can hardly stand up without wincing in pain.
We get used to that pain, but we don't have to. This is called Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS for short. You've probably heard about it, but what is it? Why does it happen? And how do you fight it?
What is DOMS - Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness?
DOMS is the pain and stiffness you feel after slaying those weights. It usually hits within hours or a day or two. DOMS is actually exercise-induced muscle damage (that's good) and your body adapts to that muscle trauma.
The tenderness you experience with delayed-onset muscle soreness is also known as "muscular mechanical hyperalgesia."
How Do You Treat DOMS?
There are a few things you can do before, during, and after your workout to keep DOMS at bay. Most of these things you should be doing already, but sometimes we need a reminder.
- Hydrate yourself - Drinking plenty of water during the day and just before you train will allow your body to stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes balanced.
- Get plenty of sleep - If you're working off of 5 hours of sleep, chances are your body will let you know it's tired by giving you massive DOMS along with a poor performance. Stick to a bed time and get enough sleep.
- Eat right - Eating nutritious foods gives us the nutrition and building blocks it needs to perform and repair. Eating crappy fast food only loads you full of sodium, indigestion, and disappointment.
- Warm up properly - A lot of the pain and tenderness comes from your ligaments and connective tissue being sore. Warming up properly increases your overall preparedness for the lift as well as increasing your body temperature and elasticity of your joints.
- Manage intensity - Going balls out all of the time is great, but you shouldn't work harder than your body is prepared for. Instead of muscle annihilation, think muscle stimulation.
- Cool down properly - While cooldowns aren't shown to reduce DOMS, a cool down ritual needs to be set in place. Doing some active recovery and mobility work post-workout helps in the long run.
- Post-workout nutrition - While you don't have to worry about this "anabolic window," drinking a post-workout protein shake can help with recovery. I personally recommend eating real food over supplements post-workout, but either will work.
- Active recovery - Before you stop moving and lay on the couch all day, take a few minutes to do some active recovery. Going for a walk, doing some mobility work, or even some light weight training will help flush out lactic acid and shuttle nutrients to your muscles.
- Take a contrast shower - Taking a hot/cold shower works great because it increases your blood flow and gets much-needed nutrients to your muscles. This is the same idea as active recovery.
- Get a massage or foam roller - Using a foam roller to massage out the painful areas also helps get fresh blood to your achy muscles. Try out a professional massage and get back to lifting in no time.
- Walk the dog - Remember that dog your kids just begged you to get? It may actually be helpful to your recovery. If you read the active recovery section, this is what you're doing. A leisurely walk for 20 to 30 minutes should be plenty.
- Have some caffeine - Studies show that sipping a couple cups of coffee reduces the amount of pain people report by nearly 50 percent. Be sure to count the calories of the sugar and cream you put in.
- Have some turmeric - Turmeric contains an antioxidant called curcumin. It's been shown to reduce your muscle pain and inflammation. Picking a recipe with turmeric and ginger will blast away DOMS fast.
- Eat some garlic - Garlic helps with muscle fatigue, especially when crushing the cloves. Doing so creates a compound called allicin which helps with inflammation. Try a nice steak stir-fry with some garlic.
- Try cinnamon - Cinnamon is nature's ibuprofen. It has analgesic effects on stiff and sore muscles. Sprinkle a teaspoon into your coffee or oatmeal to experience the benefits. Did someone say cinnamon challenge?
Wrapping it Up
Look, being sore is part of the game. But we are able to combat any soreness that may hinder your performance.
Most of these tips aren't magical, they are common sense. If you've read any of my other articles, you know that I almost always tell you to stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, and eat nutritious foods.
Believe it or not, movement and activity allow our bodies to heal and get rid of DOMS, so next time you feel like you can't move... Do it anyways.