As some of you may know I made a resolution to myself to swim at least once per week. After receiving my prescription swim goggles, no more excuses. So last Friday I had my first swim and it felt great, I used to swim quite a bit, in university I swam daily, but with worsening eyesight, increased academic, then professional then family demands I got away from it. So being prudent I didn’t want to overdo it that first swim, I was fearing that pain in the muscles you get after strenuous exercise, or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
If you’ve ever begun an exercise program or just worked extra hard in the garden, shovelling snow etc. you may have experienced DOMS and in some cases maybe it turned you off exercise altogether.
So what is DOMS?
DOMS is the pain you feel 1-2 days after a new exercise or increase in the intensity of your current exercise program, with the second day usually the worst. It is not an injury but rather the normal adaptive process your muscles undergo. It is poorly understood but thought to be the result of microscopic tearing of muscle fibers. It can occur with any exercise movement but more often with loading muscles during an eccentric or braking contraction. Imagine the downward movement doing a squat, your thigh muscles the quadriceps are acting to control your descent and contracting eccentrically.
How do I avoid it?
DOMS is hard to avoid and you will adapt to the exercise until you increase the intensity again. After your exercise you can do some low intensity active exercise, light cycling on an exercise bike for example, you can ice the area and do some gentle stretching. There is little evidence for the effectiveness of pain killers like aspirin, codeine or acetaminophen. A recent study suggests that whole body vibration may attenuate the affects of DOMS.
None the less don’t let DOMS stop you from your new workout!