DOMS: How to Prevent (and Help) Muscle Soreness

recovery Aug 25, 2020

Whether it’s the end of a major competition weekend or you’ve just finished a gruelling week of class, you’re probably feeling quite sore. 


Here, we’re explaining what causes muscle soreness and how to prevent it so that you can continue dancing at a high level, all with less pain. 


Should you prefer to listen instead of reading, you can click here and listen to our podcast on this topic.


So what is DOMS?


DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness and it refers to the pain and stiffness experienced 24 to 48 hours after strenuous exercise. 


DOMS is especially common if the intensity of your workout was more intense than normal or if you worked on muscle groups you don’t normally. For example, if you had a particularly long class before a big competition or you tried new steps in class, you’re more likely to experience DOMS.


The reason for DOMS is that when you exert yourself during a workout, your muscles experience “micro-tears” and release lactic acid. The acid builds up, causing pain and soreness and as the micro-tears repair themselves, your body can feel stiff and inflexible.


Common Symptoms of DOMS


A few of the most common symptoms of DOMS include:


  • Tender muscles
  • Stiffness and reduced range of motion
  • Short term loss of muscle strength
  • Muscle fatigue


Keep in mind that if you don’t experience DOMS after every workout, it doesn’t mean you’ve hit a plateau in your training. While maintaining your current level of fitness, you might not always be sore the next day. 


As mentioned earlier, DOMS is prevalent when your workout intensity has increased or you’ve done something new in your training. So, don’t be discouraged if DOMS isn’t always present. You’re likely still making progress.


Should I Work Out If I’m Sore?


Although you can continue training even while experiencing DOMS, that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea to do so. Your body needs time to recover and it’s important to allow your muscles to rest. In fact, you’ll likely see better results by resting versus powering through.


Instead of a high-intensity workout, you might do some yoga, Pilates, or other low impact workouts if you’re sore from the day before. 


Proper nutrition is also important and making sure you’ve eaten enough protein and carbs is essential. These nutrients are the building blocks of our muscles, so making sure we have enough of them will help our muscles to rebuild and repair themselves is key to helping with DOMS.


What To Do If I’m Sore


It should be clarified that, while it’s tempting to do absolutely nothing when we experience DOMS, doing something will actually speed up the process. Again, low-intensity exercises like doing yoga, swimming, going for a walk are the perfect exercises to do with DOMS.


You might also switch up the muscle groups you’re working with. If you had an intense rehearsal that left your lower body feeling spent, you might do an upper body workout to improve your posture and arms, and to give your legs a break. That way, you still get a workout in whilst still recovering your lower body.


With that said, rest days are definitely just as important to the training process as active days. So, make sure you take a proper rest day now once per week too.


How to Reduce DOMS


The good news is, there are ways to reduce the effects of DOMS and increase your rate of recovery. Here are a few ways to help relieve muscle soreness and even prevent it altogether.


Gradually Increase Intensity


To get stronger and see results, it’s important to challenge yourself and your body. However, it’s important to do so gradually. 


RNH training uses what’s called “progressive overload.” This technique gradually increases the amount of weight, reps, circuits, or technique practice bit by bit, to increase your performance.


You’ll still experience some soreness when you engage in progressive overload. However, when you do too much too soon, this will only make DOMS worse.


Stay Hydrated


Staying hydrated is not to be overlooked as it’s so important to our overall well-being. But when it comes to reducing the symptoms of muscle soreness, it’s imperative to drink enough water before, during, and after class.


Carry a bottle of water with you everywhere you go, from school to the gym to the dance studio, and make sure you’re keeping hydrated throughout the day.


Make Sure to Cool Down


It’s easy to finish class and skip the cooldown. After a tough rehearsal, all we sometimes want to do is curl up in bed. However, taking the time to cool down properly can do wonders for reducing or even preventing DOMS.


After a high-intensity session, do some low-intensity movements and some static stretching, which includes simple stretches that you hold for a few minutes at a time versus moving through them. 


Cooling down also helps improve flexibility and range of motion. So, especially for dancers, it’s not a step to skip over.


Use a Foam Roller


In addition to static stretching after a workout, you might also use a foam roller to do some self-myofascial massage. Doing so stimulates circulation and some studies have shown it to reduce DOMS if done on a regular basis.


You might also schedule a professional massage from a physiotherapist or massage therapist for the same reasons. They can both do wonders for DOMS.



Try an Active Recovery Session


As we briefly mentioned above, an active recovery session can do a lot to help the symptoms of DOMS, especially if you’re too sore to do anything too extreme. 


Active recovery sessions refer to low-impact activities like swimming, stretching, and walking. Active recovery is sometimes better than taking a full rest day because these kinds of exercises enhance your blood flow which aids in the muscle recovery process.


Wear Compression Gear


Although dancers can’t always control what they wear on stage, in class and during workouts, try wearing compression gear that holds your muscles in place. Doing so has been shown to help with DOMS and might be something to try if you struggle with intense soreness on a regular basis in one particular area.


Take a Cold Bath


Taking a cold bath in water that’s between 11 to 15 degrees Celsius for 10 to 15 minutes can greatly reduce the effects of muscle soreness along with adding some Epsom salts to the water.


If you’ve ever seen professional athletes submerge themselves in an ice bath, this is why.



Final Word


It’s totally normal to feel sore after a particularly intense class or fitness session. It’s the result of DOMS at work and it means your muscles are getting stronger and attempting to repair themselves. 


However, by using these tips, engaging in active recovery between classes, and taking advantage of your rest days, you can help prevent DOMS so that you can dance longer and continue to get stronger. 


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