Dealing with the DOMs (no, not THOSE types of DOMs)

DOMS recovery

The acronym DOMs carries three meanings for me: Duty Operational Managers (Thanks, British Airways), the people who want to strap other people to beds, and Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. Today, I’m dealing with the exercise-related DOMs.

My DOMs have arrived a burst of the exercise I mainly have a love-love relationship with: kettlebells. Yesterday’s session involved following the commands of a sadist named Shauna who’s actually quite lovely. Refreshingly, there was a broad range of ages attending the class and Shauna encouraged varying degrees of difficulty. The end result was temporary exaltation on my part, the desire to go for a big swim, and today’s general muscle aches coupled with an exacerbation of my patellofemoral syndrome.

If you’re trying to de-DOM, there are several ways you can approach the task. Here’s how I manage mine:

Warm down exercises can offset your DOMS in advance

Delayed onset muscle soreness recovery

I didn’t head straight from my gym’s fitness studio to the pool yesterday because I wanted to be a bigger sadist than (lovely) Shauna. Although I’m trying to commit to a certain number of lengths to accelerate my weight loss and promote better health, wind down exercises can prevent some of the pain and stiffness that arrives as your muscles are recovering.

To prevent my muscles from shouting at me for days after my kettlebell class, I prefer to use swimming. As a low-impact aerobic exercise, swimming promotes better blood flow to your muscles, which then results in faster healing. Although it won’t offset the pain completely, it is going to ease your body into mending itself.

I’m fortunate in the sense that the gym I use also has a hydrotherapy pool. Whether I’ve experienced a burst of kettlebell madness or I’ve done nothing other than breaststroke, spending time in the hydro pool and heading to the steam room feel mandatory (both are majorly relaxing.) There’s a small amount of evidence suggesting that the use of hydrotherapy following exercise reduces muscle soreness in the legs. It may also boost future performance when exercising, which means there’s a strong case for my weird routine.

Yoga the morning after the day before


My most recent post on how yoga has altered my freelancing practice only partially explains why I am so dedicated to it. Even if you are slightly terrible at the whole balancing and twisting into weird positions thing, you can submerge yourself in the benefits that come with stretching after a taxing workout.

After you’ve engaged in exercise such as kettlebells, your inflammation markers will be through the roof. It’s believed that this happens as a part of your body’s natural response to the tiny microscopic tears you’ve introduced to your muscles. One study examining the effects of yoga on inflammatory markers in those who experience occupational injuries found that the practice reduces cytokines and CRP.  If ever there was a good reason to break out your yoga mat, this is it.

Ibuprofen will always be my friend

It’s worth noting now that Ibuprofen will only affect the pain aspect of DOMs. It isn’t going to make your muscles any less weaker and it also won’t enhance your performance. Another little note: taking Ibuprofen prior to exercise is not going to put you at risk of injuring yourself. It’s very unlikely that they’ll mask pain to the extent that you injure yourself (note, it is an over-the-counter NSAID, not Tramadol). And, as the team at Harvard Health state, you’re only likely to increase your risk of an Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) if you’re an endurance athlete whose creatinine levels and hydration profile are already deranged.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to not take Ibuprofen. For example, if you’re asthmatic it’s highly likely that NSAIDs aren’t right for you, but do check with a medical professional before making that assumption. Or, if you want to protect your guts and reduce your risk of developing a peptic ulcer (which is pretty much everyone), try an alternative form of pain relief.

Excellent hydration for easing muscle pains

Treating DOMS

Ideally, you’ll maintain your hydration throughout your workout rather than just responding after. As your muscles work hard to meet the demands of your exercise routine, they’ll suck up as much oxygen as they can get. In order for this to become a little easier, you owe it to your circulation to turn to your water bottle between reps/circuits/whatever.

After exercising, you need to work on addressing your electrolyte imbalance. You’ll lose out on glucose, sodium, and potassium as you sweat, which results in a world of pain from your muscles if you don’t do what you can to deliver a bit of harmony. Many people will recommend coconut water and I can’ disagree with that. It’ll tackle your electrolyte imbalance without adding too much sugar to the mix, but only if you choose a brand that doesn’t add sugar to its products.

Personally, I can’t stomach the taste for too long (unless it’s in a smoothie) and so I still rush for Lucozade after exercising. My favourite comes in the form of guava flavour and it’s seriously addictive.

Don’t quit just yet, soldier


When a serious case of DOMS set in it’s tempting to throw in the towel and commit yourself to a life on the couch. Although there’s no need to throw yourself so far outside of your comfort zone that every nerve in your body starts screaming at you, a little movement won’t hurt here.

I won’t act like I am a pro-swimmer or anything (because I really am not) but it does strike the right balance between supporting your muscles and helping you burn calories. As your body moves while fighting to raise your core temperature above that of the water, you’ll get a decent workout that alleviates some of those post-workout aches.

Also, another caveat: I only do breaststroke.

From starting this post to (finally) finishing it, my DOMS dissipated, I had a Sunday evening run followed by 40 lengths, and then I ruined it all with my spinning class this morning. How my body will ever forgive me, I do not know.


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