What is DOMS? - Women's Running UK

What is DOMS?

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  July 8, 2016


We’ve all experienced that feeling. It’s the feeling after a particularly hard run, cross-training or strength session, when your muscles are aching and even walking down the stairs feels like agony! And, worse still, it actually seems to get more achy the day after, and even the day after that.

Meet Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness, or DOMS as it’s more commonly known. But what is it, why does it happen and, most importantly, should you run through it? Andy Kay, Senior Training Tutor at British Military Fitness, gives us the low-down…

What is DOMS?

DOMS is characterized by local soreness, reduced muscle function and reduced range of movement. The symptoms usually start around 24 hours after exercises, and can last anywhere up to five days[1], peaking around 72 hours after exercise. Your symptoms will be worse if you’re a novice, but the good news is that they will reduce the more trained you become.

What causes DOMS?

DOMS is more likely to occur after long bouts of exercise (hello long weekend runs) and unfamiliar exercise, which includes big increases to your pace or distance. This is due to an increase in exercise-induced muscle damage. However, contrary to popular belief, the more sore your muscles are does not mean the more muscle damage you have done.

Dealing with DOMS

There are many strategies that have been developed to help alleviate DOMS, including anti-inflammatory drugs, massage, cyrotherapy and compression garments to name just a few. However, these are only helpful in reducing the symptoms and there is no way of significantly reducing the pain without going back and changing the exercise done in the first place! The most effective way of dealing with DOMS is adaption – simply the more exercise you do, the more your body will adapt. This is called repeated bout effect (RBE) and means that, following tissue damage, an adaptive process takes place, leaving the muscles stronger and more resistant to damage during future exercise sessions. This response is most effective in the first two weeks of occurring but can last for up to six months between bouts[2].

Should I run through it?

DOMS is sometimes unavoidable, however avoiding sudden increases in unfamiliar or long duration exercise will help prevent excessive soreness. Rest and adaption over time are the most effective methods for reducing DOMS in subsequent training sessions. If your muscles are excessively sore, it may be best to take a day off from your running, easing back into it with an easy run once some of your symptoms have been alleviated.

To find out more about British Military Fitness, or to sign up for a free taster session, please visit: www.britishmilitaryfitness.com.

[1] Byrnes, W. C., & Clarkson, P. M. (1986). Delayed onset muscle soreness and training. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 5(3), 605–614.

[2] Connolly, D. a J., Reed, B. V., & McHugh, M. P. (2002). The repeated bout effect: Does evidence for a crossover effect exist? Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 1(3), 80–86.

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

Meet the team

We use cookies to give you a better experience on womensrunning.co.uk. By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies as set in our Cookie Policy.

OK, got it