What is DOMS?
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is your body responding to microscopic tears in your muscle fibres. No matter how cautious you are, the chances are after the first session back in the gym you are certainly going to feel it for the next few days. Some people like the feeling of DOMS and believe it to be an indicator of a ‘good workout’ but this is a common mistake and shouldn’t be the goal.
Your recovery and adaptions to training will mean that muscle soreness will become less severe the more consistent you are with your training and recovery.
Why & how do you get DOMS?
DOMS should only really set in when you have had a break (in this case lockdown) or you change the training stimulus/programme focus. For example, moving from a strength phase lifting heavy loads for less reps with more rest to a hypertrophy phase lifting less load but for much higher reps. To help reduce the pain from your first few sessions you need to do a really good warm up. As previously mentioned, ease yourself in by focusing on whole body training sessions, good quality range of movement and work within yourself with your load selection.
How to avoid DOMS
After your session spend 15 - 20 minutes stretching either at the gym or at home.
Use your ‘rest’ days between sessions to include some recovery work such as foam rolling, stretching and mobility. You could even use these days to go for walk, light jog or bike ride to help you feel better. If you still feel DOMS before your next session, this is totally normal. Still commit to your next session and you will likely feel better after it.
Nutrition will also play a big role in your recovery. Protein is super important, so try to ensure you are getting around 1.8 - 2g of protein per kg of bodyweight a day and try to have a post-training protein serving too. Use a whey or plant based protein shake if you aren’t going to have a meal in the few hours after your session.
I’d also resist the urge to significantly cut your calories upon your return to training, this doesn’t mean you can’t focus on fat loss and create a deficit, but you are going to want to fuel your training and recovery to get the most from your gym sessions.