Top tips for tackling DOMS

Have you ever rolled out of bed the morning after an intense leg workout to find you can barely walk down the stairs to get…

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Have you ever rolled out of bed the morning after an intense leg workout to find you can barely walk down the stairs to get your much needed coffee? I’m fairly certain that any athlete, whether you’re an Olympic athlete or just a part-time gym-goer, has experienced the dreaded delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). If you’re unaware of what DOMS is, it’s basically exercise-induced muscle damage. This microtrauma tends to be caused by high intensity workouts that you body isn’t used to. Don’t panic, it’s nothing to worry about. But, if you are finding DOMS a pain in the glutes or lats or y’know, just insert the current appropriate sore muscle name here, then keep reading for some of my favourite ways to prevent and reduce the effects of DOMS.

1. Warm-up 
This little step is overlooked by so many people. Before exercising, give yourself an extra 5 minutes to just warm-up. Warming up, even if it’s just slightly, will prepare your muscles for the intense workout you’re going to put them through. You can warm up with some light cardio, such as light jogging, jump rope or an exercise bike, followed by some light weights. By warming up for just 5-10 minutes before getting stuck into your workout you will reduce your risk of injury.

2. Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated during your work-out is so so so important. You’re probably thinking “Well duuuuh, of course I need to stay hydrated”. Obviously, you need to stay hydrated to account for the excessive water and electrolyte loss caused by sweating it hard in the gym. But staying hydrated may also be beneficial in helping to prevent DOMS. Connective tissues are easily subjected to dehydration, which causes reduced elasticity. Dehydrated connective tissues are more susceptible to tears and damage. So, drink up that h2o and your connective tissues should be able to better withstand the physical demands of exercise.

3. Protein
It’s no secret that protein is a necessity when it comes to exercising. Protein is useful for muscle recovery and helps repair muscles quicker. Bearing that in mind, making sure you have enough protein in your diet should speed up the DOMS recovery process a lot quicker than if you aren’t consuming any protein at all. If you’ve been upping your fitness game lately, you should make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet. It won’t make you big and bulky, but it will keep you strong and healthy. If protein is all a bit alien to you, then my mini guide to fitness supplements may be a helpeful read!

4. Stretch
When you’re suffering with a severe case of DOMS, the thought of stretching is enough to make you want to cry. But, it may be helpful. The feeling of DOMS is often intensified by muscle tightness. Gentle stretching can help to relieve this muscle tightness. So, stick on a yoga video, do some gentle stretches in front of the TV or try out foam-rolling to stimulate blood flow and loosen those tight muscles, making that DOMS a little bit more bearable.

5. Apply some heat
Another characteristic of DOMS is inflammation. Applying heat to the muscle can alleviate the pain associated with the inflammation of DOMS. I always have a tube of deep heat in my bag. I wish I was lying but I’m really not. I use it for migraines and also use it help alleviate the niggling pain of DOMS whilst on the go. I was recently introduced to the wonders of Deep Heat Muscle Massage roll-on lotion (not quite the shortest name in the world). I found the warming effects of this much stronger than the standard deep heat cream and the little roller ball is perfect for an mini massage for those tender muscles. As well as applying deep heat to help with inflammation, you could also try to reduce the inflammatory effects of DOMS with adding cinnamon and matcha green tea to your diet. These are both antioxidant rich and will naturally help to fight inflammation.

6. Exercise regularly
Seriously. This is basically the golden rule for reducing DOMS. You’re most likely to experience DOMS when you’re performing exercises that your body isn’t used to. This is why when you hit the gym for the first time or start a new exercise program, you’re most likely to experience intense DOMS the following day. Regular exercise and training means your body will adapt to it, lessening the intensity of DOMS. When I first started training, 20kg leg-press would leave me in agony the next day. But, by sticking with training, 20kg soon became a breeze. These days, leg-pressing 70-100kg will sometimes leave me with an intense feeling of DOMS, but fast forward a few more months and I can bet that my body will be thinking “pfft, is that all you’ve got?”.  It’s a no-brainer that the more you repeat an exercise, the stronger you will get and therefore, the less pain you will feel. This process is actually known as the Repeated Bout Effect. By continually pushing your limits and striving to reach your fitness goals, you’ll grow stronger.

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Whilst these are my top 6 tips for trying to alleviate DOMS, there is little scientific evidence to back up any ‘fixes’ for DOMS- what works for you, may not work for the next person. You’re always going to experience DOMS throughout your fitness journey, just at varying levels of intensity. Finding something that helps alleviate the pain associated with DOMS can be amazing, so hopefully this little guide can help you to find something that works for you! Remember to look after your body and by following these 6 tips you should reduce your risk of injury.

What are your top tips for reducing DOMS?


*Deep Heat Muscle Massage was a gifted product. However, it was my own personal choice to include this product in this blog post and all views and opinions entirely reflect that of my own. If you have any questions, please drop me an email.

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