Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is pain and stiffness of the muscles experienced several hours or days after strenuous exercise. The pain is usually evident 6-8 hours after the workout and peaks at 24-48 hours following the activity. DOMS is most common when you are doing a new exercise or increasing the intensity of your training program. Your muscles are making rapid changes in order to prepare your for the new level of exercise. The soreness is felt after most muscle exercises but particularly after eccentric contractions (lengthening). Eccentric exercise includes lowering weights, push-up positions and lowering into a squat. DOMS can be very uncomfortable and can deter you from doing any form of movement. However, you can reduce the pain associated with DOMS. Here’s how:
Caffeine is known to have a positive effect of endurance and strength training, but it is also thought to accelerate the recovery process post-workout. It is believed that caffeine reduces the effect of DOMS as it blocks central nervous receptors related to pain. Take 5 mg per kg of body weight – roughly 2 and a half cups of coffee – before a workout. If you don’t like drinking coffee, you can swallow caffeine capsules instead.
Menthol cream applied to sore muscles post eccentric exercise will cool down the area and can reduce the discomfort associated with DOMS. In the short term, it will help to relieve soreness but it doesn’t have longer-term effects on reducing DOMS. Apply cream post-workout and whenever you are in pain.
Precondition your muscles
Warming up the muscles that you will be concentrating on during your workout can help to reduce DOMS. If you can, gradually prepare your muscles a few weeks in advance of a new exercise or increase in intensity of your training. For example, if you plan to concentrate on building muscles on your legs, give yourself a week to pre-condition your muscles.
Increasing your training frequency can help to reduce DOMS. Once you’ve gotten over the first workout (which is bound to be uncomfortable) the more you do the exercise, the more your muscles will be prepared and so they will feel less sore. It is recommended to do two to three training sessions per week per muscle group. If you are concerned about whether you will have time or the money to increase your gym time, you may want to try doing exercises at home or joining a 24-hour gym. Edinburgh, Birmingham, London and most other UK cities have 24-hour gyms that, although can be basic, are much cheaper than large gyms.
Studies have shown that fruits high in antioxidants can reduce muscle damage and soreness, post-workout. It is believed that the anti-inflammatory properties of these fruits help the body to prepare for repairing damaged tissue. Drink blueberry juice on the day of your workout.
Increase your blood flow
Anything measure that increases blood flow to the sore muscles will help to reduce the pain. Gentle exercise like a walk, a massage or time the sauna may help to relieve the pain.