12.17.2014

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

A common question I get asked after running a marathon is "How are your legs?". This really is a great question and I have my guidelines that I use to truly assess the effort I put forth on race day, my level of fitness, and my rate of recovery. With that being said, let's talk about delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS.

If all goes well, right after the race I am not doing too bad at all. I love to finish without my legs already screaming although that has happened to me years ago. That was a tough race and I truly pushed my limits. But through ongoing training, my level of discomfort post-race has been decreasing and that is a good thing. But still, I tend to experience some DOMS.

The Honolulu Marathon was on Sunday. Monday morning I was a bit tight but got up early, ran a mile, and cycled some. I then spent the day walking around Waikiki until my legs wanted to scream. More exactly, an area above the outside of my right ankle but that is another story.

Come Tuesday, when I woke up I was very stiff and achy. My legs were tender and I knew I was in DOMS mode. The good news is I could still walk down stairs normally but my quads were letting me know they were aching.

What is DOMS?

The muscle soreness and aches you begin to feel 24-72 hours after exercise. If you are sore immediately, that is acute muscle soreness. The thought is that DOMS is triggered my tiny tears to your muscles that happened when you were exercising. Another theory is that accumulated calcium is leading to inflammation. Either could be true but I tend to lean towards the micro tears since that makes sense to me...not that calcium doesn't but the calcium theory seems close to the lactic acid theory of years ago that has been debunked. Whatever the cause, what you really need to know is what to do now.

How do I treat DOMS?

My treatment for muscle soreness leans towards active recovery, which makes sense since I run every day. But when my muscles are aching I run less and/or slower. I am not sprinting, running hills, or aiming for need distance milestones. Slow and easy wins the race. I also lean towards yoga and stretching since those feel good but be careful with stretching. Aggressive stretching can lead to more muscle tears so think gentle and calm. Next, I love sports massages and/or foam rollers. Again, gentle. It will hurt some on tender muscles but it should be a tolerable and perhaps soothing ache not painful. Give your muscles some love. I have never down an ice bath but some swear by that. It is just too much for me and I tend to avoid my hot Epsom baths at this time too. I go to them for mild soreness after a tough workout, not DOMS. And yes, rest. Get some extra sleep. This is prime healing time for your body. One thing I do not turn to is painkillers. I know some people do but I avoid taking any as much as possible. There are too many side effects and risks with regular painkiller use so I keep that for the days I really, really need it.

Is DOMS bad?

Not necessarily, it is a sign that you are working your body and yes, you will grow in strength. However, you can avoid DOMS by gradually building up your training program and not making sudden increases in speed, distance, or intensity of your training. Listen to your body. Although DOMS every now and then is part of an active life, too much muscle damage goes beyond DOMS to an injury. Take care of your body, rest, hydrate, and have many more years of happy running!

Daily Gratitude: I am thankful for yoga.
Daily Affirmation: I know my body.


8 comments:

  1. Yesterday was leg day and I've been feeling it all day today when I walk.

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  2. The handicap toilet was invented for DOMS. lol

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    Replies
    1. That and being a mom with a kid in tow. :)

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  3. Excessive downhill running does it every time! OMG.

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    1. Very true! Those downhills can beat up your quads!

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  4. My husband scheduled a massage for me after the marathon on Sunday - it was amazing! I have had very little stiffness and I'm sure that played a part. He hit a home run with that one! And his wheeler that he escorted got first place on Sunday, so it was a great day all around.

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    1. Good job hubby! I did that for myself once and yes, it is amazing! Great job on his wheeler too. :)

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