May 3, 2013
What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

Have you ever worked out so hard that you’re muscles ache the next day?  They’re so sore you can’t even lift your arms up to put a shirt on or you have a tough time sitting down in your chair?  Well, if you’ve experienced this before, you’ve just experienced a physiological response known as DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness.   
DOMS occurs in several instances:

  • When you push yourself past a limit by increasing the intensity or lengthening a workout (i.e. performing 100 push-ups when you normally just do 10)
  • When you’re trying a different activity you’ve never done before (i.e. hiking up a steep mountain when you’ve only completed 30 minutes on the stepmill)
  • When you’re performing eccentric exercises where you’re lengthening your muscles versus contracting (i.e. walking downhill)

DOMS is the condition in which you’ve stressed your muscles beyond normal capacity, which leads to small micro tears in the muscle fibers and connective tissue.  This also results in inflammation in the torn muscle fibers.  The more you overuse the muscle group(s), the greater the tissue damage leading to a longer recovery phase.  Depending on how much you overworked your muscles, DOMS can linger anywhere from 1-5 days depending on how deconditioned you are. 

The good news is it goes away.   What’s even better is when you do the activity or workout again, you’ll feel little to no soreness the second time around.  Your body is adapting to the stress of the workout. 

So how do you prevent this from happening again?  Well, here are some tips:

  • Don’t be Extreme! – If you’ve only ran 3 miles during your training, don’t go out and try to run a marathon over the weekend.  Instead, gradually build up your stamina to withstand the extra challenges.  Only increase your frequency, duration, and/or intensity by 10%.  The better the foundation you build the less sore you’ll feel.
  • Keep Moving! – Many times, DOMS is a result of being deconditioned.  Keep coming back and working out.  Don’t just give up and call it a day.  One of the best things to prevent DOMS from coming back is keeping those joints active.
  • Cross-train – Mix up your cardio, so your muscles continue to adapt to new stresses. 
  • Train Now! – Be smart with your training.  If there’s an upcoming event or activity that requires some preparation, start now!  Don’t delay and procrastinate. 

The more in-shape you become the stronger your muscles will be to take on all the upcoming challenges.  So stay active and keep going and DOMS will never appear in your workout vocabulary.

Written by Nelson Lau

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