You had a great workout yesterday or the day before that. It felt awesome. You felt strong. You pushed yourself in a good way and walked out a sweaty smiling mess. Then this morning when you stood up out of bed your calves screamed in protest at bearing your weight. Lowering yourself down onto the toilet was something your quads almost refused to help you with and clinging to the hand rail for dear life is the only way you made it down the stairs in one piece. You have DOMS my friend, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and in the fitness world they come with the territory. Luckily there are at least five things we can do to lessen their grip on our hiney.
#1 Cool Down
It’s not just an inconvenient nuisance before you get on with the rest of your day. The cool down is a very important part of any great workout, especially in relation to DOMS. Allowing the heart rate to lower on a gentle decline through active recovery time will clear more lactic acid build up from your muscles than a heart rate going from high to low like the drop of your gym shoes. The less lactic acid left sitting in your muscles the better. Don’t skip the cool down.
#2 Foam Rolling &/or Stretching
Facia (fah-shuh) is a protective sheath around our muscle fibers. The stresses we put on our bodies, including exercise, affect how the facia is laid down. When our muscles are kept in a tightened state after exercising the facia cannot move and form correctly leading to pain and movement restriction, aka DOMS. Use a foam roller and/or add stretching to the end of your cool down…that you didn’t skip.
#3 Refuel with Protein
Exercise breaks down our muscle fibers and uses up the energy stored in the tissue. In short after a great workout our muscles are tired and empty. They’re like dried out sponges and need fuel to rebuild stronger and fire quicker the next time you call them to action. Lean protein is the very best-est, most favorite-est fuel of depleted muscles. Within an hour of working out is the standard magic window. A protein shake is a great, fast absorbing, post workout option, but any lean protein source (chicken, egg whites, etc) will work to get the job done. Don’t feed you’re muscles properly and they WILL let you know the next day, or the day after the next day.
#4 Epsom Salt Bath
If you’ve never heard of taking an Epsom salt bath to relieve muscle soreness I really must ask you what rock you’ve been living under and then I shall open your eyes to the wonders of a nice hot salty soak. 1-2 cups of salts is generally the recommended “dose.” The salt dissolves into the water then the magnesium in the salt is absorbed into the heated muscles through the skin where it relaxes and aids to flush out lactic acid. Less lactic acid = less soreness. Start the bath running, add the salt, allow the tub to finish filling and then sink up to your neck in the warm soothing comfort. Just don’t fall asleep.
Exercise is where muscles are broken down. Sleep is where they repair and grow. Sometimes we get DOMS because we’re just too darn stubborn to stop what we’re doing and get our back ends into bed. Oh wait. Maybe that’s just me. 7-8 hours EACH night is the standard recommendation. That doesn’t mean 4 hours one night and 6 hours the next night and then almost 7 the next night and then 5 hours the next. You get the point. Consistent, quality sleep is what our bodies need to maintain normal function and even more so if we’re asking them to excel at any physical activity. My goal is to be in bed, with all devices turned off by 10pm each weeknight. I’m only maybe 40% successful at this right now so I’m totally talking to myself and just letting you listen in on this one.
“Wait 6? You said 5!”
I know I did but I love you so much I’m throwing in a bonus.
As much as you might want to it’s not a great idea to take pain killers to deal with DOMS. It actually shuts off your muscle repair. You need the inflammation from the muscle breakdown to trigger growth and repair. Remove the inflammation and you shut down the whole process. Be proactive in preventing DOMS in the first place and you should manage just fine. Push your limits, challenge yourself during your workouts without going overboard. A good manageable soreness lets you know you worked to your ceiling and your muscles are reaping the benefits. It’s a great thing. Not being able to sit down during a business meeting is not. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are muscles and stamina. It all takes time. Also, the more consistent you are in your fitness lifestyle the less often you will most likely deal with bathroom counter, stair rail gripping soreness.
I’m finishing up week 9 of the challenge and I’m feeling great. Thanksgiving was good. I took some of my own foods and only splurged on my Mom’s cornbread stuffing, even got a nap (#5!). I had a personal record on deadlifts this week of 10 sets of 10 @ 100 lbs. And take a look at what decided to make an appearance this week! I’m 36 years old and I have never seen my abs before. I didn’t think it was possible after having babies but the light was just right that evening as I was changing my shirt and I thought “What in the world is that? Oh my gosh! I can see abs!!!”
Stephanie Neher is a Tennessee belle living in Minne-SOH-ta with her very own Paul Bunyan. She homeschools their 2 little blue oxen and keeps her figure red-flannel-ready through Zumba, lifting heavy pieces of iron and anything else physical that strikes her fitness fancy.