DOMS is that “Oh my goodness, I worked out the other day and now I am so sore it hurts to move” feeling that accompanies a new exercise routine, a switch up from your previous routine or a substantial increase in intensity or duration of your routine. It sets in somewhere between 24 and 72 hours later and can stick around causing you grief for a few days after it shows up. It is usually extremely noticeable (not to mention uncomfortable) for those who are just beginning a workout routine. I’ve gotten texts from clients at all hours of the day and night cursing my name for the fact that they can hardly move! Most people think I’ve pushed them too hard, too far, too fast. Not the case. In fact, quite the opposite.
I remember, very vividly mind you, my first workout with a trainer. It was one of those “Hey try a free workout with a trainer to see what you have been missing out on” deals. It was a guy, who seemed nice enough at the time, little did I know he was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! I got warmed up and then met him in the weight room. He asked me to pick a muscle group to work on, so I picked legs (my favorite). He took me over to the Incline Plate Loaded Leg Press. He slammed a 45 onto each side and said, “Okay, give me 20″. I sat down and began pressing the weight. Stupidly, I asked “Is this supposed to be hard?”
WRONG THING TO SAY!
He rolled his eyes, huffed and puffed and slammed another 45 onto each side. I sat there thinking I should just learn to shut my mouth…but I had gotten myself into this and I had to get myself out. I prepared myself mentally for what I thought was going to be the longest 20 reps of my life. As I pressed, I was shocked to find that, though it was definitely heavier, it wasn’t really that hard! I chuckled to myself what I thought was quietly…but apparently it was not as quiet as I thought it had been! That right there my friends is where he set about crushing, no seriously, CRUSHING me. I won’t go into all the nitty gritty details, but by the time he was done with me and DOMS set in, I could barely walk for TWO WEEKS! Due to that experience, I am as nice as I can be when introducing a new client to a regular exercise routine. I tell them all the same thing, “I’ll be as nice as I can be but there’s just no getting around the fact that the first couple weeks or so are gonna be rough.”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it a million times more, our bodies are SO amazing!! They will adapt to almost anything and the process of DOMS is just one more process that proves that. In fact, that’s exactly what DOMS is, an adaptation process that ultimately leads to greater endurance and strength. Here’s how it works:
You workout. If you do it correctly (working to failure), what you are actually doing is causing tiny micro-tears in your muscle fibers. No need for alarm, that’s what you’re supposed to do! Your body then takes over to repair the torn muscle fibers. As with any “injury”, your body will try to strengthen the injured area to ensure that it does not sustain an injury in that area again. What comes next is the swelling and inflammation of the affected area which leads to the soreness and reduced ROM (range of motion) you experience. The end result is always your body’s version of a stronger area, in this case, the muscle fiber is built up to resist the micro-tears it underwent with your last workout. Pretty awesome huh?
The good news here is that as you continue to workout at your current level, the severe soreness you feel in the beginning will fade a bit. Now, that being said, keep in mind that if you are not at least a little bit sore after each workout you aren’t challenging your body enough. You should never reach the point where you don’t ever get sore. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and feel the burn baby!