Whether you have been training hard during lockdown, or not at all, your first day back in the gym can be a real shock to the system.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is often felt 24-48 hours post-exercise and causes your muscles to feel more sensitive to touch and stiffer than usual.
We know there is going to be some discomfort involved in the first day back but there are some ways to adapt your training and recovery to minimise the impact and maximise your progress.
Here are 5 tips to help you avoid DOMS as you go back to the gym:
1. Train safely
Especially if your training was predominately bodyweight-based during lockdown, you may need to take a more conservative approach when you first start back at the gym because if you overdo it too soon you can risk injury.
Incorporate more warm-up sets, especially before compound lifts like squats and deadlifts, and avoid going to all-out failure.
Take this time to practice and perfect the technique of your lifts and build back up gradually.
2. Keep moving
Avoiding activity altogether when you have DOMS is likely going to make the soreness and stiffness feel worse.
Light activities, such as walking, to increase blood flow to the muscle tissues will help alleviate symptoms.
3. Manage stress
Evidence shows that chronically elevated levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) accelerate the loss of muscle mass and increase inflammation.
Managing your stress through meditation and relaxation techniques sets the scene for more effective training and recovery.
4. Sleep better
Poor sleep will negatively impact recovery. In simple terms, bad sleep equals worse DOMS.
Prioritise good sleep hygiene by keeping a regular sleep schedule, sleeping in a dark, quiet room and reducing exposure to blue-light-emitting devices so close to bedtime.
While there is no magic pill to prevent DOMS, proper nutrition should be a priority. A whey protein shake post-workout can also help to support repair and recovery.
Taking time to stretch and having a hot bath in the evening can also aid in loosening off any particularly tight areas.
DOMS is nothing to fear and is normal after high-intensity exercise, however, you do not want it to get to the point that it impairs your future training sessions drastically.