As I sit here feeling the aftermath of a grueling leg day, now seems like the perfect time to write about the painful, yet love-able feeling, known as DOMS. Or as it’s formally known, delayed onset muscle soreness.
If you’re new to the gym, you might be wondering why your muscles feel like they’re going to burst at the seams after your workouts! The reason for this is because they’ve been worked in a way that the body has never experienced before, or in simpler terms – it’s a sign that you are doing something right!
When you first experience DOMS, you might ask yourself “surely it can’t be like this every time I go to the gym, why would I want to feel like this everyday?!”. If you’ve seen the film The Matrix with Keanu Reeves, there is a particular scene where Neo asks Morpheus “why do my eyes hurt?” and he responds with “because you’ve never used them before”, well the same principle applies here – the only reason they feel like this is because of the sudden shock to the system. Strangely enough, when you become a seasoned gym goer, you’ll think back to when you had DOMS, as a fond memory; as your body later adapts to strenuous exercise.
Before you google yourself into a panic, thinking that you may have caused yourself an injury, take a second to assess the sensation and discern whether it’s in fact an injury, or a sign of a job well done. DOMS will be felt in the muscles alone and when the affected muscle is contracted, it may feel as though it’s going to cramp. If you’re suffering from pain in your joints or ligaments then it may be a sign of injury and you will need to rest to recover.
To stop DOMS having an effect on your workout routine, I would recommend following a split that allows you to train muscle groups individually, allowing you to focus on building other muscle groups whilst recovering from the session before! Different muscle groups tend to have varying recovery times when it comes to DOMS, for instance leg DOMS seem to last longer than any others; which you can expect to last anywhere from 24-72 hours (depending on the intensity of your session).
I can personally attest to feeling the effects of a good leg session three days later! I can, however, say that you don’t have to worry about feeling DOMS in your upper body for this long, due to the muscles being much smaller in size than your legs, meaning there are less muscle fibers that need repairing!
If you’d like to relieve the feeling of DOMS quicker, and you don’t want this lingering feeling of hell in your muscles for more than 24 hours, there are certain things you can do to expedite this process. We will share a few of those methods with you here;
- Foam roller – this is a popular piece of equipment amongst gym veterans who want to alleviate DOMS as soon as possible, especially if they’re following a split that’s based on full body routines. They are simple to use and most gyms come equipped with them.
- A nice hot bath – who doesn’t love having an excuse to enjoy a relaxing soak in the bath?
- Ice cold bath – though I wouldn’t personally recommend this method due to the sudden extreme temperature change, many athletes swear by ice baths to boost muscle recovery.
- Or, if you have a loved one, you could cash in on this as an opportunity for them to give you a well deserved massage!
Whilst DOMS are a great indicator of an effective workout, this sensation is a critical time to listen to your body and allow it sufficient recovery time; as training the same muscle repeatedly during this phase, puts you at a higher risk of injury.
Take comfort in knowing that each time you feel the effects of DOMS, your muscles are repairing themselves to be stronger and to grow back bigger than they were previously, meaning that each time this happens, you’re one step closer to achieving your dream physique.