Sunday, 13 August 2017

Surviving DOMS (that post training agony)

DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Inspired by my current state, I felt the need to shed some light on this ‘serious’ problem engulfing gyms everywhere.

DOMS (which stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is a condition triggered by commencing a new gym program or a change in your existing program. It is the pain you feel in your muscles 24-72 hours after you start exercising and is also known as a ‘serious injury’ to some people.

As I am currently in a state of severe DOMS and it hasn’t even hit the 24-hour mark since my training, I felt inspired to talk about my condition publicly.

Having just come out of a 6-month competition period where my training was very specifically designed to strengthen the big three lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift), my coach has now moved me into a conditioning phase. We are calling this phase ‘get hot for 40.’ Well, I am anyway. I’m pretty sure he is calling it ‘let’s see where CC’s threshold is and then push her past it.’

Anyway, it’s brutal and every part of my body hurts. Even my fingers!

This is completely normal. When you are living through this hell it is really hard to remind yourself that it is part of the process, let alone breathe, walk or eat. So having just stepped out of a scolding hot, magnesium bath, I thought it apt to spend some time addressing the real issues. DOMS – what is it, what will the next 1-4 days look like and what can you do to survive this torture?

What is DOMS?
The jury is out on what technically causes this pain in your muscles. There are some studies to indicate it is micro trauma of the muscle, or miniature tears. Being a current sufferer of DOMS, I can say with absolute certainty that there definitely is micro trauma in my legs right now. In fact, I have been quoted saying repeatedly this week, “nope – can’t do that – I have micro trauma!” (I have been VERY dramatic this week according to Tyler).

According to Cody Loopstra, Physiotherapist from All Sports Physio, The Gap, there is a physiological explanation for this pain.

"The process of tearing muscles while working out starts a cascade of chemical events within the small muscle fascicles that are micro-damaged from being progressively overloaded. As with any injuries, small amounts of inflammation occur – in this case Creatine Kinase (CK) – as well as the by product of lactic acid from energy output.

“The reason we get soooo sore after heavier sessions is due to larger amounts of CK being release. Warming down, or repeated exercise bouts (lower dosage) as well as massage, are effective ways of flushing out these chemicals to alleviate the pain. This does decrease over time as your body acclimatises to the load that is placed on it."

Cody Loopstra
BPhysio ; BExSpSci (Maj. Clin Ex Phys) Men's Health Physiotherapist Exercise Physiologist

DOMS will generally kick in 24-48 hours after your training session and can last for 4-5 days. It can hurt, like REALLY hurt. It can often be mistaken for an injury that needs rest. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve even had clients take time off work because of DOMS.

But the body needs to move. From personal experience with post exercise pain, remaining sedentary and resting will not help flush out this pain. I have found movement, gentle stretching and lots of water will provide relief.

Expect the following activities to be almost impossible:
Going to the toilet – you will need handrails either side of your toilet to help ease you onto the toilet seat. If you stay there for too long, I suggest a commando roll off the toilet is the best form of exit.
Brushing your hair – if you have completed a good quality arm day, brushing your hair or putting it into any kind of ponytail won’t work.  Get a hat and chuck it on.
Putting a bra on or off – Quite simply, don’t! Let your sistas hang free.
Stairs – this is a task that can’t be avoided, especially if you live in a house like mine with three flights of stairs. This week, I discovered you can in fact go up the stairs backwards. This requires less use of the quadriceps, which tends to really get hammered with DOMS after a solid squat session.

First of all…I have been regularly reminded this week – you will not die from DOMS. I suggest hot baths with lots of magnesium or Epsom salts. This won’t make it go away, but it will certainly ease out some of the stiffness.
Take magnesium regularly – this helps with muscle pain and cramps, and can certainly speed up the time spent in this hell
Foam roller and gentle stretching – if you can bring yourself to sit on a roller, this will definitely help with the stiffness. Most importantly, BREATHE when you are doing this!
Move – keep moving. Stick to your program, walk, move the body, and keep the blood pumping. This will stop you from stiffening up and prolonging the pain.

Finally, acknowledge that this is part of the process and that it will pass. The pain of DOMS definitely eases after the first 2-3 weeks of a new program and ironically you will come to miss that feeling. Even though, right now, I never want to feel like this again, I know I’ll be asking my coach in two weeks to ‘step it up!’


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