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Don't Panic: You've Got DOMS

Posted Feb 25 2013 11:48am
That's what the header of a Readers Digest article I found said: "Don't panic: you've got DOMS". Maybe it's because I was overtired and drank WAY too much caffeine yesterday, but I found that hilarious. I also laughed so hard I cried while looking up t-rex jokes. (Seriously - I even created a Pinterest board about them!) T-Rex = awesome. I don't know why, but I find everything about a t-rex hilarious, I can't get enough. 

So back on topic... DOMS = delayed onset muscle soreness. It's the pain and soreness that develops 24-72 hours after a hard physical workout. 

Not surprisingly, every article I read on the topic mentions how it's especially common among out-of-condition runners (*hem)... More evidence that running a half marathon on zero training was dumb? Just ask me what I think of my epic training efforts while I attempt to go down the stairs.. And maybe stand far enough away that I cannot reach you to give you a whack. Stairs hurt so very much, especially on the way down. 

As Janae from Hungry Runner Girl put it (FYI she just ran a half marathon this weekend - but she's sore today because she ran in a whopping 1:30. Rumour has it that she went so fast that she actually appeared to be a smiling blur as she whizzed by), her quads feel like they went through a paper shredder this morning. 

Sounds about right to me!

Some facts about DOMS:

- What specifically triggers muscle soreness are the high force eccentric contractions we experience when we take up unaccustomed exercise, run harder than usual, or downhill. Our leg muscles lengthen under high load or impact, while trying to contract or shorten - a lethal combination! Recent research shows that some people are high responders to eccentric exercise, meaning that their muscle damage and inflammatory markers remain excessively high for several days after running. ( Source:  <-- this is a good article, I recommend reading the whole thing if you are interested in the topic!)

- DOMS doesn't just affect newbie runners or idiots who decide to run a half marathon without training (*shameful face*); it can affect new runners or anyone after a hard workout, downhill running, long distance running or after you've worked a muscle group more vigorously than usual

- There's a HUGE myth that DOMS is caused by lactic acid buildup on the muscles - this is not accurate. Lactic acid levels go back to normal resting levels within 20-40 minutes of exercise ( source ), though it can cause discomfort and soreness immediately after exercise. 

- The pain we experience in the days following exercise is actually caused by damage to connective tissue, damage and swelling of cell membranes, swelling of the muscle fibers and the increased production of superoxide free radicles. 

- Resist the urge to soak your sore legs in a hot bath or apply a heating pad - heat actually increases swelling and inflammation and will worsen your symptoms ( source ) ICE is actually a lot more effective, and an ice bath goes a long way to reduce swelling

- Studies have shown that COMPRESSION is actually helpful in relieving DOMS symptoms more quickly. I'm a BIG fan of wearing compression socks and compression shorts after long or hard runs - I'm really wanting a pair of compression tights to use as my mileage increases for my next marathon and ultramarathon!

- Light exercise has also been proven to help alleviate symptoms by increasing blood flow and helping to disperse residual waste products in the muscles. Keep it easy though and if you're going to run, try a soft surface like gravel, grass or the treadmill to reduce impact!

- Warming up before your next hard workout or race can help limit muscle damage and the stiffness afterward.

And the good news is that your body adapts and gets stronger every time you expose it to this kind of exercise and activity. So for someone like Dean Karnazes running the 50 marathons in 50 days, his body would have become very highly adapted to the rigors of the marathon - so he doesn't get day-after soreness that us mere mortals get after doing a marathon. 

My little movie buddy

Since I am trying to get myself back on track, I am going to do a light treadmill run tonight, no more than 3 miles. I took yesterday as a total rest day and spent the day watching a Bond movie marathon on the couch with the dog. It was pretty awesome!

Did anyone else race this weekend?

Have you ever experienced DOMS after a race? Any tips for getting rid of it?
- I had really bad soreness after I ran my marathon last Fall, but I'm finding this time bad too!

What are your thoughts on compression gear? Do you have any of it?
- I have compression socks, sleeves and shorts. I am a firm believer in wearing it for faster recovery!

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