I’ve Got DOMS and I’m Feeling Good

23 08 2014


I love waking up in the morning and feeling the rewards of my labor. In this case, I’m feeling soreness in my legs from a run I did in the pouring rain two days ago. I felt the soreness in my legs while walking down the stairs to retrieve my newspaper; I felt it squatting down to pick up the newspaper; and I felt it walking back up the stairs with my newspaper.  And although it sounds like I’m whining, I’m actually loving every moment of it. I know that I have overloaded my muscles (topic for next blog) and thus my legs will become stronger and I have DOMS to thank for it.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a condition where soreness in the muscles is felt twenty-four to forty-eight hours post exercise and can last up to seven days. This is a neurological response to notify the body that the muscles have been stressed to their limit and any further stress could lead to serious injury. The American College of Sports Medicine refers to DOMS as the first sign of muscle damage “where the individual has done too much too soon” (Bushman, p.366). However, soreness and muscle fatigue are common and are precursors for the muscle adaptation response, therefore, casting a grey area when referring to DOMS as an indicator of the muscles getting just enough or too much workload.

Many of my clients are very timid when it comes to feeling sore after a workout. Many do not like feeling pain after exercising and I can’t blame them. The once popular mentality for building muscle, “no pain, no gain” has long been abandoned. Therefore, as a trainer, I need to progress individuals at a safe rate and allow their muscles to adapt at the right pace. For those who are trying to gain muscular advantages, whether it be strength, power, or endurance, I must heed the warning signs of overtraining. Delayed onset muscle soreness can be a good way to track your workout intensities. Rate your post soreness on a zero to six Likert-type scale, where 1 = minor soreness, 3 = moderate soreness, 5 = extreme soreness. You should try to stay below a rating of three. This will allow you to elicit the adaptation response and promote physiological gains without overly damaging your muscles, leading to injury and setback.

Even with minor soreness from DOMS, the body has encountered micro-trauma within the muscle. It’s important to allow those muscles to repair and rebuild before tackling another intense bout of exercise using those same muscles. Ample rest time is recommended and hydration with proper nutrition is beneficial in healing the damaged tissue. Static stretching does not aid in the repair or reduction of DOMS, but should be done after exercise to return the muscle to it’s lengthened state. Deep tissue massage is controversial for relieving DOMS, as they may cause more pain within the musculature and extend the length of time needed to heal. Be aware of your intensity and remember, if you can’t walk the next day, you’ve probably gone to far.

Bushman, B. (2014) ACSM’S Resource for the Personal Trainer (4th Ed.) Philadelphia , PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

McGrath, R., Whitehead, J., & Caine, D. (2014) The Effects of Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretching on Post-Exercise Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in Young Adults. International Journal of Exercise Science. Retrieved on August 23, 2014 from http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijes/vol7/iss1/3/

Herbert, RD., de Noronha, M., Kamper, SJ. (2011) Stretching before or after exercise does not reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Retreieve on August 23, 2014 from http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/45/15/1249.short

Jernigan, K. (2013) Problems of Deep Tissue Massage. Retrieved on August 23, 2014 from http://www.livestrong.com/article/92924-problems-deep-tissue-massage/

The Bare Necessities: From Shoes to Barefoot

11 06 2012

Try this: go outside and run around the block (ok, just jog). Most of you probably would have donned a pair of cushioned, foot correcting sneakers before walking out of your house. This is typical for many 21st century humans who want to make sure they don’t get injured while braving the pavement. Shoe stores are filled with hundreds of brands and models specifically designed to combat some kind of foot problem when you’re running. However, current studies have indicated that the ideal thing to wear for running might not be a pair of arch supported or ankle stabilizing sneaker anymore. Why it took researchers so long to run down the stats on how our bones, muscles, and ligaments adapt to the different surfaces when we walk or run and how that changes our whole body’s physiology is probably because they were wearing the wrong shoes too. Barefoot running, and even walking, can be traced back to our great Paleolithic ancestors and now companies like Vibram, Newton, Saucony, and Nike have flooded the markets with their shoes that claim to resemble running barefoot, without the scrapes and bruises.

Through advanced technology, shoe manufacturers have been able to design sophisticated footwear to prevent our feet from over pronating (stability control), pounding the ground with too much force (shock absorbers like air sacs, springs, and more cushion), and dropping our arches (arch support). These new methods for controlling our feet’s movement are more of a “crutch” than a treatment. In the last decade, studies on barefoot running have sent many health and sports magazines to track down experiences of this phenomenon. The leading magazines for running enthusiasts, Runners World and Running Times, have both printed a number of articles on the benefits of minimalist shod and barefoot running. A study conducted by Dr. Daniel E. Liberman, professor on Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, pointed out the natural adaptations of the body as a person runs barefoot compared to a shod runner. When a runner has the ability to allow his or her foot to move freely when making contact with a surface, the proprioceptors within the foot muscles respond and adapt to the surface, thereby recruiting the correct set of muscles to prevent injury from occurring. With foot correcting sneakers, the foot has little awareness of the surface with which it is making contact, causing a incorrect running style, and therefore, the recruitment of different muscles are needed, resulting in common running injuries.

Here’s an experiment for you to try. Go to your local high school track, or if you have a clean section of road nearby, run ten yards down the track or road. Then take off your shoes and repeat. If you compare the two running styles next to each other (shoes and barefoot), one would see that our running style quickly changes when our foot hits the ground. When we run with shoes, because of the cushion in the heel, we’re more prone to have our heel strike first. Yet once our shoes come off, our body shifts to the mid or front part of our foot where our legs can suddenly work together like a spring and propel our bodies forward. This also prevents our heel from stabbing the ground and hurting the bony surface. “The amount of reaction force generated in the foot and leg also decreases, explains Dr. Liberman. A look at his figure (Fig. 1) shows that there is much less reaction force when someone uses a front foot strike with a short stride, which is common when running barefoot compared to a rear foot strike (heel to toe style).

This is not to say that everyone should go out today, ditching those old cross-trainers and run freely. Running barefoot takes time, as is common in any form of muscle training. Muscles, when stressed, need time to recover and adapt. Also, unlike the humans of 100,000 years ago who didn’t grow up with something on their feet from birth, have paved roads, and broken glass shards, the 21st century human must train our feet longer for the conditions of today’s environmental surfaces. Vibram’s FiveFingers, Nike’s Free Run, Saucony’s Kinvara 2 are minimalist shoes that allow your feet the freedom to move like being barefoot but with a little added protection between your feet and the pavement. If you want to be true to your natural instincts, train your body to run sans shoes. Start on grass or sand before transitioning over to tougher surfaces. Don’t run too long if you’re inexperienced because the muscles in your foot will quickly fatigue. Running a couple times a week barefoot will make your feet adapt to the surface and overtime, you’ll have the ability to run away without any injuries.


Liberman, D.E. (2012). What we can learn about running from barefoot running: an evolutionary medical perspective. Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev., Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 63Y72