We’ve all felt it. The muscle soreness that hurts so good. When the day after an intense workout you can’t even put away groceries or get off the couch without groaning. That pain is called DOMS.
DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It stems from microscopic tears in your muscle fibres that occur during exercise.
It’s the pain that comes not from an injury, but from working out muscles that aren’t used to being used at that intensity.
So aside from complaining to anyone that will listen, what else can you do about it?
Warm Your Body Up
A warm-up before heavy lifting is great to get your muscles ready and reduce the likelihood of injury. But not all warm-ups are the same.
Studies show that a warm-up consisting of light, dynamic movement is more effective at reducing DOMS than stretching.
Try doing a light version of the exercise you’re about to do to wake up your muscles and increase blood flow to those areas. Slow jogging, cycling, skipping or light weights are all great ways to warm up your body.
Keep Guzzling Water
You may not already know this benefit of guzzling down water. Staying hydrated can actually help speed up the DOMS healing process.
Water can control your body temperature, loosen joints and transport nutrients. It keeps the fluids moving through your system which can help ease inflammation and by delivering nutrients to your muscles it helps them repair more quickly. Which means drinking water helps your muscles heal and can reduce your DOMS.
It’s easy to become dehydrated without realising, so make sure you’re filling up your water bottle multiple times a day as a way of tracking your fluid intake.
Be Cool and Cool Down
Stretching before a workout may not be that useful, but stretching after a workout is where you’ll feel a difference.
Your muscles are more relaxed and flexible when they’re warm post-workout, and stretching will help circulate the blood around your body.
The king of cooldowns: foam rollers.
Basically, foam rolling is like giving yourself a (slightly painful) massage, it helps with muscle fatigue, flexibility and makes it easier for you to stretch out your muscles. You can use traditional rollers or massage balls for those pesky hard to massage areas.
Cooling down isn’t just about the period immediately after your workout. Think about the day after your session and what you do with your body.
It might be tempting to put your feet up for the whole day, but you’ll benefit more from some light exercise. Recovery workouts like walking, cycling and yoga increase blood flow and naturally nudge the inflammatory process along. You might be complaining the whole time, but it will definitely help.
You Are What You Eat (And When)
Do you feel hungry after a heavy weights session? Great!
Kickstart your recovery by having a high-protein snack within half an hour of an intense workout. We wrote a blog post about healthy snack options that are perfect for digging into after a sesh at the gym.
By feeding your muscles the nutrients they need to repair and grow back stronger, you might speed up the recovery process. Which means less time taking one stair at a time.
Although more evidence is needed, it’s also been suggested anti-inflammatory foods can help relieve muscle soreness. Try cherries, pineapple or ginger.
By utilising all these tips you hopefully stop wincing when you wash your hair sooner. Remember that this soreness means your muscles are ultimately strengthening, so be encouraged by your DOMS!
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