Hard exercise, or in the experience of this personal trainer even gentle stuff if you are dreadfully unfit, can induce DOMS, which usually set in the next day but are worse 48 hours after the exercise. This soreness seems to be caused by exercise induced muscle damage followed by an inflammatory response, although surprisingly the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood. What we do know (and if any of you have played explosive racket sports such as squash and badminton will know for sure) is that this DOMS is made worse by eccentric braking and loading. This is where a muscle or group of muscles are forced to lengthen and then suddenly stop while elongating. It’s much easier to understand this if you take the squash example; when playing a shot under pressure you lunge forward onto the leading leg. This leg then suddenly has to brake and then spring back as you push off it. So the muscles in the bum and thigh get longer, then have to stop you, before contracting from this elongated state. This, as you squash players will know, leads to the horrid 48 hour (or longer) soreness. Ways around this are to start exercise gently and build up from your starting point (our Diets Don’t Work personal trainers always try to do this), and also to stretch as soon after exercise as you can; remember that muscles stretch much more effectively when they are hot and fully warmed up. Try to avoid static stretching when cold. This DOMS is also a useful guide to make sure that you are not over training. If the soreness lasts for longer, 6 days or more, then over training has occurred, and as the muscles don’t get long enough to adapt and get stronger this over training is counter-productive. More on this adaptation in a later blog.
The key really to avoiding this DOMS is to keep exercising!!! You will of course have some soreness to start with, but if you go through that and then stop exercising, all your initial pain will have been wasted, as when you start exercising again you will have to go through DOMS again too…so keep it up.