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Don’t let DOMS put you off exercise

What on earth is DOMS?

DOMS is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness - the soreness that you feel after exercise, the stiffness, aches and pains in your muscles that can appear 24-48 hours after a workout. It’s completely normal and is a sign that your fitness is improving. It happens to everyone, from Olympic athletes to once-a-week walkers. And it’s not a bad thing at all!

What causes DOMS?

When you exercise, you slightly tear the muscle tissue and the nerve endings become inflamed. We feel soreness to prevent us from overusing the muscle and damaging it further as it grows stronger over the next few days.

If you’re returning to exercise or trying something new that uses different muscles, your DOMS may be stronger but as you persist, the body adapts and the DOMS reduces.

Can DOMS be stopped?

Time is the only thing that stops the discomfort of DOMS but a sports massage (we know an amazing Massage Therapist - Claire Routledge!) can help to ease the tension. You can also gently massage your own calves, thighs, arms and shoulders or use a foam roller after a workout to help reduce DOMS. Some find that pain relief gels and creams that contain arnica can help to ease the symptoms and a warm (or cold if you can take it) bath will soothe.

Sit still or keep moving?

Whilst it’s tempting to stay on the sofa until the discomfort passes, it may do more harm than good. A gentle stretch, walk or swim could lessen the soreness. If DOMS continues for a week, if the pain is sharp rather than dull, or you see any swelling in your legs or arms, you should consult your doctor.

Can DOMS be prevented?

It’s not really possible to stop DOMS but we can take steps to reduce the intensity of the aches, for instance: 1. Warm up and cool down properly – spending 5-10 minutes warming up and cooling down can help to lessen soreness and it also boosts flexibility in joints and muscles.

2. Stay hydrated – it has been shown that those who drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise suffer less with DOMS.

3. Take it steady – don’t run before you can walk. When building up the intensity of your workout, take little steps to build up your strength and endurance and keep DOMS to a minimum.

So, don’t let DOMS keep you from your fitness routine. Vary what you do so that your body can recover from high-intensity workouts with more gentle stretching and look after yourself with a massage or bath to ease the DOMS away... and enjoy the feeling of having worked hard!

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