Beat your Post Work Out DOMS
We all know what it’s like to feel sore after starting a new activity or pushing yourself harder than usual during a workout. Muscle soreness that shows up a day or two after exercising can affect anyone, regardless of your fitness level.
Sore muscles after physical activity is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and can occur when you start a new exercise programme, change your exercise routine, or increase the duration or intensity of your regular workout.
When muscles are required to work harder than they’re used to or in a different way, it’s believed to cause microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, resulting in muscle soreness or stiffness.
I have to confess to actually enjoying this sensation, it makes me feel like I’ve trained hard, pushed myself and made some physical gains, but it can be a nuisance and as a passionate amateur sportsman with limited time I’ve found some very effective ways to avoid and treat DOMS.
Do a Proper Warm Up and Cool Down
This is always an issue for me, I’m always running late and it feels like a pain to add 5-10 minutes to each end of your session or match, but it really works. Preparing your body before your workouts to help increase blood flow to your muscles and warm them up will reduce risk of injury and should help reduce muscle soreness. Do some light cardio (a 5- 10 minute brisk walk or jog) and then some stretching before your session. You can fast track your warm up by the use of heat rubs and creams, the act of vigorously massaging the product into your muscles will stimulate the blood flow. Try to use products with natural active ingredients, Bullet & Bone Muscle Activating Rub contains natural ginger and black pepper and also has a pleasant fresh fragrance that won’t over power you or your fellow gym goers. These products are actually also really good for easing any residual DOMS from previous training before your session too.
A cool down is equally important – I’m always tempted to head straight to the shower / car / bar, try to take 5-10 minutes to cool down. Finish with a gentle jog or brisk walk followed by some good quality stretching. Reducing your heart rate and breathing gradually cools your body temperature. It will give your muscles time to return to their normal length and increase blood flow to the exercised muscles which can help avoid soreness.
Hydration and Nutrition
A lack of electrolytes contributes to muscle soreness so you need to make sure you are staying hydrated throughout your workout. Hydration is much more important and effective than simply quenching your thirst, take regular water and fluids on board during your training, make sure you have a drink even if you’re not thirsty.
You also want to be sure to replace the amount of fluid lost during your workout once you have finished training. Drink water, coconut water or an electrolyte drink following your workout to ward off dehydration that can make your muscle stiffness worse. I love the CocoFuzion range of products. Also try to avoid beverages high in sugar, salt and caffeine, which can increase dehydration.
Healthy eating plays a key role in fitness. Try to consume a diet containing the right nutrients to give you the energy, strength and the protection to reduce any DOMS, some important groups are:
- Whey protein rich foods: cottage cheese, quinoa, beef, yoghurt
- Anti-inflammatory foods: Manuka honey, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, blueberries
- Antioxidant foods: Turmeric, green tea, pecans, kidney beans, Goji berries
- Magnesium rich foods: dark green leafy veggies, such as Spinach, whole grains (brown rice and whole wheat bread), beans and nuts, avocados.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines
Healthy snacking and supplements are also an effective and convenient way to get the right macro and micro nutrients and avoid the bad ones – I love the great products from Grenade.
The theory behind compression helping with DOMS seems valid, but so far it’s unproven, however, in my experience it seems to work. It’s believed that compression garments may increase blood flow to the muscles, reducing the amount of creatine kinase, which is a chemical that builds up in your muscles and causes soreness. It’s also said that as you workout vigorously, muscle groups can become inflamed which can lead to swelling and then pain. By wearing compression clothing during your training, your muscles will be constricted, reducing the fluid build-up which will help combat the swelling of your muscles.
Either way, I like the feeling of the extra connection and support with the base layers and they are absolutely great for training / playing outdoors when the weather is cold.
There are some great brands out there, my personal favourite is the range from Cantebury.
Massage has been found to play a critical role in reducing inflammation in the body. It also stimulates the mitochondria, the tiny cells that convert glucose into energy, and which are essential for cell function and repair. So not only does a light massage after exercise feel good, it can also help to reduce pain from DOMS and aid your muscle recovery by easing inflammation, improving blood flow and reducing muscle tightness and swelling. You can also massage many of your own muscles, such as when you are moisturising after a shower, or even while showering – simply rub your calves, hamstrings, quads, biceps and so on to help ease DOMS.
Foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, is widely used in fitness. From top athletes to regular gym-goers, this can provide great recovery.
Applying pressure to specific points in the body using your own bodyweight on top of the roller can help release muscle tightness or trigger points (commonly known as ‘knots’). This self-massage technique will loosen the muscles and help return them to normal function. It isn’t a relaxing massage – you will experience some discomfort – but it will increase blood flow to your muscles and create better mobility – all of which can aid recovery.
I use Blackroll.
Whilst on this subject, a great way to treat DOMS or other minor muscle and joint injury is the Cryo Ball. It combines the benefits of ice and a massage, it’s a stainless steel roller ball that you put in the freezer, it’s intense but really works.
Functional Creams, Balms and Rubs
Products that deliver heat and cold therapy directly to the muscles are very effective in relieving pain and stiffness. Ice baths, ice packs, heat patches and heat lamps are all regularly used but a really convenient and effective method is to use functional creams, balms and rubs. They are easy to apply, you can carry them in your gym bag and they lend themselves really well to self-application. Just massage into the affected areas (but do avoid any “sensitive” parts of the body).
I’ve already mentioned Bullet & Bone Muscle Activating Rub. As well as providing natural, pain relieving warmth, it also contains Willow Bark Extract and Meadowsweet, for their natural pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. Great if heat therapy is your thing.
They have another product in their range if you prefer cold therapy. Bullet & Bone Cooling Relief Freeze Gel provides an intense cooling effect on the skin which reduces soreness. The menthol in the gel causes calcium ions to affect your neurons that sense temperature and inhibits your brain/pain connection in that area. It also contains Magnesium (in the form of Epsom Salts) which is well known for its benefits in muscle repair and recovery.
I found an unexpected use for this product in prevention rather than cure of DOMS. Rub it into your muscles after your workout and you’ll get an intense cooling effect, a bit like an ice bath but without the hassle and discomfort, and it’s great for rapidly cooling muscles to reduce inflammation and DOMS.
You can use these warming and cooling rubs with the massage techniques and foam rollers / cryoball mentioned above to further enhance their effectiveness.
So, these are some quick hacks that I’ve found over the years of playing and training. Having said all this, remember, don’t push yourself too hard and to a level that will put you at risk of injury. Take care of yourself, fitness, like life, is a journey, so enjoy the journey and stop to smell the flowers on the way.
Article written by Ian Murphy