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Results Coaching Weekly Newsletter 102- DOMS Revisited

This week I wanted to revisit a well known topic among the first timer and the every-timers alike. Sore muscles! They are real, yet the inescapable reminder can be mysterious in many senses. This week we dig into a little more on what to expect, why, and how best to continue working toward health and fitness goals. With this, it is my hope that we all can start to have a little more appreciation for all the repair and rebuild of those screaming achy muscles that we are oh so familiar with. Attached is an article about soreness myths. I have also included a link below for additional myofascial and soft tissue release related to joint pain for those of you with the extra time and curiosity (to be discussed in greater detail in the following weeks). Move well, move more!

We have all been there before- whether it’s the day after a crushing boot camp, first day into the gym ever, or advancing into a new phase of movements- that inescapable feeling of muscles absolutely wrecked with soreness and tightness. There is no denying it when it happens. There is no playing it cool, and no taking it back when from head to toe it feels more like your body just got hit by a Mac truck. And sorry all, there is no promising it won’t happen again. The journey to self improvement- be it toward weight loss, strength gain, mobility goals and so on- one must provoke muscular change through tear down and rebuild mechanisms. The process of specificity of training and eventually overload, are necessary in order to adapt muscular structure and function. Why so sore? And how do we get rid of that soreness, or reduce the effects of what is officially defined as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)? Such is the recovery topic of this weekly helpful hint for health and fitness.

You may have notice DOMS may not always be predictable, sometimes sneaky, and can range in degrees of intensity for novice and expert athlete alike. We can define symptoms in a medical dictionary to the effect of muscle soreness, limited range of motion, tenderness, muscle weakness; all as a result of micro trauma to the muscle fibers and connective tissues used during intense activity. Theories on responsible mechanisms can be deduced to believed micro tears and inflammation in soft tissue fibers, as well as the accumulation of the byproducts of metabolism. The latter has actually proven more beneficial to provide energy for later muscular rebuild.

Exercise physiology texts recognize symptoms will occur delayed and peak throughout a 24 to 72 hour time frame. It is understood in the field that eccentric muscular contraction (deceleration) will incite a greater potential and severity of micro tears than other muscle actions. Lactic acid and carbon dioxide waste products build up in the blood stream and muscles as a result of high intensity and anaerobic activity to a degree that the body can no longer buffer hydrogen ions (a byproduct of energy production). So once we have done this to ourselves, how do we fix it or reduce the effect?

A study published in 2003 by the Journal of Sports Medicine put to test many modalities’ influence on the clearance and easement of the DOMS affect. Researchers are adamant that “exercise is the most effective means of alleviating the pain during DOMS.” Forms of light activity stand up past even high tech modalities such as cryotherapy, ultrasound, and electric stimulation.

Non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs may mask symptoms, analgesic topical remedies and conditional massage showed to temporarily reduce the effect. Another such study, published by Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, acknowledged the low intensity activity to help speed recovery by clearing soreness and build up through increased blood flow circulation. The same journal also published on immediate active recovery following activity significantly reduced byproduct levels in muscles faster than complete rest/passive recovery.

Notice the topic of scrutiny this week is not avoiding soreness and tightness, but recovery. More specifically, recognizing the benefit of implementing proper active recovery protocol. As opposed to what is technically called passive recovery; ie doing nothing about it, sitting around in misery, whining etc. Going back to the culprit responsible for that soreness there can be two approaches taken reduce severity of impact on soreness and duration of affliction- active recovery and warm down. There are countless studies and journals publishing affirmations of physical activity encouraging and expediting recovery process. More so than need be referenced here.

Huge take away from all findings of current research revolves around blood flow and circulation. Restructuring and rebuilding damaged tissues requires energy largely provided for by oxidative energy sources. So it is no wonder that the best remedy has to do with increasing flow of oxygen throughout the body as a result of physical activity.

    Warm Down: Immediately after activity continued movement 5-20 minutes (ACSM recommendation).

  • Gradually reduces muscle temperature, heart rate, and restores natural breathing and oxygen flow to avoid dizziness.
  • Avoids blood pooling in lower extremities.
  • Dissipates and recirculates excessive amounts of lactic acid build up (although seen as a vital component to energy cycle and restoration of muscle glycogen) and other waste products.
    Active Recovery: Non specific, light to moderate aerobic activity in days following.

  • Reinstates ranges of motion.
  • Increases blood flow for oxygen and nutrient distribution to damaged tissue sites.
  • Activates central nervous system.

There is still much more detail to be researched for absolute understanding of all mechanisms involved. The argument for passive recovery seems to be nonexistent in healthy cases. This goes to say here is yet another vital component to the overall turn over of muscle overload, repair, and enhancement. These effects of active recovery cannot be overlooked; nor can the influence of recovery factors including nutritional intake and timing, stretch and foam roll, and quality sleep. A systematic approach, or irrefutable recommendation is yet to be determined through research; however, the novice and expert alike are sure to reap benefits of recovery with sensible activities to recuperate even most substantial torn and damaged tissues. We will most likely never be able to avoid the situation, though in the next case of Mac truck syndrome (DOMS) we can now prepare to actively expedite the expected painful process.

No Pain, No Gain? 5 Myths About Post-Workout Soreness.

By Christine Yu


(Life by DailyBurn ) – You just crushed a really hard workout. You upped the load of your training, or you stepped out of your routine and tried a new activity. You feel great — until you wake up the next morning, barely able to move.

Enter delayed onset muscle soreness, better known as DOMS. It’s an acronym that athletes and fitness buffs wear with pride

As its name suggests, “DOMS is muscle soreness that becomes evident six-to-eight hours following activity, peaking around 24 to 48 hours post-training,” says Jon Mike, an exercise scientist at the University of New Mexico. While the symptoms will often start to diminish at about 72 hours, “the precise time course and extent of DOMS is highly variable,” Mike says.

DOMS is most pronounced when you introduce a new training stimulus — a new activity, increased intensity or volume — or if you are new to physical activity in general.

“Your body is making adaptations to better prepare your muscles to do that activity again,” says Lauren Haythe, certified Kinesis Myofascial Integration Practitioner and yoga teacher. That’s why on Day 1 at the gym, after doing squats or lunges with 10-15 pound weights, you can be brutally sore the next day.

“But, as you continue on, you can build up from there, and you won’t be so sore,” she says.

While all kinds of muscular contraction can cause soreness, eccentric contraction — where the muscle lengthens as it contracts — is most often associated with DOMS, according to Mike. This includes movements such as running downhill, lowering weights or lowering down into a squat or push-up position.

“There is also some evidence that upper body movement creates more soreness than lower body exercises,” says Mike.

Muscle discomfort is the most common characteristic of DOMS, but there are other symptoms. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, these may include reduced range of motion and joint stiffness, local swelling and tenderness, and diminished muscle strength. These symptoms appear gradually following exercise (not to be confused with acute pain that may arise during physical activity).

No pain, no gain. Lactic acid build-up. An indicator of muscle growth. These are all phrases that we tend to associate with DOMS. While you may think you know everything you need to know about the condition that has you waddling like a duck, you may be surprised by what’s actually happening in your body.

Myth #1: DOMS is caused by the build-up of lactic acid.

The verdict: Not true.

During exercise, your body needs energy, and it breaks down molecules to get that. As a result of this metabolic process, your cells naturally become more acidic which makes your muscles feel like they’re burning. But this isn’t caused by lactate. Lactate is actually a by-product of the metabolic process and serves as a buffer and slows down the rate at which the cells become acidic.

“People produce lactate all the time, even at rest. It clears your system 30-minutes to one-hour after working out,” says Mike.

A study in Clinics in Sports Medicine found that DOMS is the result of microtrauma in the muscles and surrounding connective tissues, which causes inflammation. The reason that eccentric muscle contraction (think lowering a dumbbell back down in a biceps curl) is more likely to be the culprit is because it places a higher load on your muscles compared to concentric contraction.

“It’s the active lengthening of muscle fibers under load. It’s like you’re pulling on a rope, and there’s so much force that the rope starts to tear and pull apart,” says Mike.

Myth #2: It’s not a good workout unless you get DOMS.

We often wear our DOMS as a badge of honor and believe that if we’re not sore, we’re not doing enough during out workouts. But that’s just not true.

“It doesn’t mean that you’re not getting as good of a workout because you’re not crippled the next day,” says Monica Vazquez, NASM certified personal trainer. “You should feel [soreness] 24 hours to three days after the activity. If, after three days, you try to do the same exercise and you cannot because you go immediately to muscle failure, you’ve done too much.”

According to Mike, studies have shown that soreness itself (using a scale from 0 to 10 to assess the level of soreness) is poorly correlated as an indicator of muscle adaptation and growth. There are many factors that influence how DOMS presents itself in individuals.

“There is great variability, even between people with similar genetics and even among highly-trained lifters [and athletes],” he says. So while comparing notes (and commiserating) is all part of the process, soreness and DOMS isn’t the best gauge of how effective your workout was or who’s in better shape.

Myth #3: The more fit you are, the less susceptible you are to DOMS.

It’s true that you will start to feel less sore as your body adapts to your workouts and learns to distribute the workload across your muscle fibers more effectively. That’s why you should regularly change up your exercise routine.

However, there is also a genetic component to how sensitive we are to pain and soreness.

“People can be no-responders, low-responders or high-responders to soreness,” says Mike. If you’re a high-responder, you will experience DOMS more acutely than someone who is a no- or low-responder when given the same training load. While you can’t change your genes, it is important to know where you fall on the spectrum to understand how your body may respond to changes in your workouts.

Myth #4: Muscle damage is a bad thing.

Yes, DOMS appears to be caused by trauma to your muscle fibers, but it’s not a definitive measure of muscle damage. In fact, a certain degree of soreness seems to be necessary.

“When muscles repair themselves, they get larger and stronger than before so that [muscle soreness] doesn’t happen again,” says Vazquez.

While these mechanisms are not completely understood, Mike notes that some muscle trauma is needed to stimulate protein production and muscle growth.

Myth #5: Pre- and post-workout stretching is a good way to prevent and treat DOMS.

Unfortunately, no. A review of studies for the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews on the effects of stretching before or after exercise on the development of delayed-onset muscle soreness found that pre- and post-workout stretching did not reduce the effects of DOMS in healthy adults. In fact, research has found that static stretching prior to working out does not safeguard you against injury and may actually decrease your power and strength.

While you may not be able to avoid soreness altogether, ACSM suggests advancing slowly with a new workout, giving your muscles time to adapt and recover. Vazquez recommends always including a proper warm-up (including dynamic stretching), and cool-down period as part of your routine.

Stop waddling: How to recover from DOMS

There are a number of ways to alleviate those can’t-make-it-up-the-stairs symptoms. A sports massage is one good way to reduce the effects.

“A massage will move the fluid and blood around in your body which can help heal the microtrauma in your muscles better,” says Haythe.

A study in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation found massage to be beneficial on both gait and feelings of post-workout soreness.

Other common ways to treat DOMS include foam rolling, contrast showers (alternating between hot and cold water), Epsom salt baths, increased protein intake (to increase protein synthesis) and omega-33 supplementation (to reduce inflammation), and sleep.

New research in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that supplementing with saffron may also help to alleviate DOMS. Regardless of your preferred Rx, Haythe recommends looking at your diet to make sure your taking in nutrients to help your body heal.

“Find a diet that can really help you feel the best that you can feel,” she says.

When it’s more than just DOMS

There may be times when you overdo it with your workout and feel bad. Really bad. But when should you be concerned?

“If your level of soreness does not go down significantly after 72 hours and into the 96 hours mark,” says Mike. ACSM advises that if the pain becomes debilitating, you experience heavy swelling in your limbs or your urine becomes dark in color, you should see your doctor.

If it’s an injury, you’re more likely to feel it immediately during your workout — something that should never be ignored. Soreness, on the other hand, will appear gradually, often the next day.

“An injury will likely limit your range of motion and last longer than three days,” says Haythe.

When all is said and done, DOMS shouldn’t be avoided or revered. But it shouldn’t be your only gauge of your level of fitness or strength. “People think that the only part of their workout that matters is the hard part,” Vazquez says. “But, you can do more of the hard part if you don’t injure yourself.”

Long-term, Haythe says, “You’ll build more muscle, strength and endurance if you give your muscles a chance to take a deep breath and recover.”

-If you are still seeking the drive, the direction, or in need of an outlet to substantiate your vitality, consult with your next sighted Results coach. Plan for your path to achievement. Remain faithful to said purpose with every action, every movement, every choice, and with each decision- stand firm. Take that found passion and now share this insight and lifestyle to include the lives of those you spend most time with.

Your Coach in Health, Keali’i

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