Sam Bolger, Head Coach and Location Manager for Vogue Fitness’ Al Raha branch Image Credit: Supplied

Have you ever experienced that uncomfortable stiff walking down the stairs because your legs are too sore? If so, then you are not alone. This soreness is known as Delayed-Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) which is the pain felt in your muscles a few hours to a few days after strenuous or demanding exercise. DOMS is often heavily present among those new to training, it can however occur with the most experienced athletes, especially if they have taken some time off of training.

What is DOMS?

DOMS is caused by tiny micro tears in the muscle fibre, usually caused due to any unaccustomed strain put on your body in the form of exercise. The pain can last up to 72 hours, however there is no correlation to the amount of soreness and the amount of muscle growth, meaning just because you are really sore unfortunately does not mean you will turn into the Hulk or an Olympic athlete overnight. There are even cases where DOMS can take place with minimal muscle damage and vice versa, you can have a higher degree of muscle damage without any DOMS. It varies from person to person and exercise to exercise. Often, beginners get really sore as their body is not used to this newfound movement, however these newbies often see fast results and changes to their body as they adapt to the new stimulus and stress put on their bodies.

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DOMS can however have a negative effect for a number of reasons. First, it can reduce your mobility, which in turn will have an effect on your next workout where you will find it difficult to perform certain exercises. Secondly, it can reduce your power output due to the pain felt in your muscles and lastly it can also affect your motivation due to the uncomfortable experience, especially if you are somebody who is new to having DOMS.

Reducing DOMS

You can try reducing DOMS by following a well designed programme that doesn’t throw you into the deep end but instead gives your body time to adapt and get accustomed to the new exercises. Having a programme that doesn’t conflict with the same movement patterns, or muscle groups, will also allow you sufficient time to recover.

Other ways to help with soreness can be foam rolling where you place the sore body part on top of a foam roller, which acts as a self-massaging tool to help relieve symptoms of soreness and stiffness by stretching and putting pressure on your muscle tissue. Going for a sports massage can be beneficial too. Taking a cold shower, ice bath or applying ice packs to sore muscles can also help reduce inflammation, which will reduce the onset of muscle soreness.

Doing a low-impact exercise, such as going for a light walk or a swim, will allow you to get blood flowing around your body and enable you to still be active instead of putting it off due to the pain. Remember the importance of good nutrition and hydration in any recovery process. Drinking plenty of water post-workouts will help eliminate toxins from the body as well as prevent dehydration.

DOMS is a natural reaction in the body post-exercise and has been experienced by everybody that has worked out. It is not something that should keep you inactive for a week, but by understanding what it is, should allow you to take steps to reduce the pain and allow to continue with some physical activity while the pain subsides.

— The writer is Head Coach and Location Manager for Vogue Fitness’ Al Raha branch