It was Monday morning, and before my feet even hit the floor I could feel the biting effects of DOMS. It all started on Saturday night when I decided to join a pickup game at the soccer bubble in Montclair. Even though I played in college and in a couple adult leagues afterward, I hadn’t touched a soccer ball much in the last few years. On Sunday I felt pretty stiff, but things really amped up by Monday. I could feel the pain travel from my feet all the way up my legs and through my back. In between popping ibuprofen, I had the trademark wince of someone who had done just a little too much a few days earlier. It might seem like your body is playing tricks on you, but Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is actually a normal and adaptive muscle response. DOMS refers to the muscle pain and stiffness felt in the days following a change in your exercise routine. Just when you think you’re a hero, the soreness intensifies and peaks during the 24 to 72 hours following unfamiliar activity. This phenomenon is thought to be the result of microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers which are particularly likely to occur when you engage in eccentric activities that cause your muscles to forcefully contract while they lengthen. These types of contractions are common while engaged in many sports like soccer that require controlled or resisted types of movements.
Although DOMS can be intense, and let’s face it a bit humbling, don’t let it deter you from trying new things or from getting back out there. It’s just your body’s way of developing greater stamina and strength as the muscles recover and grow. The best way to minimize or eliminate DOMS is to slowly ease into any new or changing exercise program. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day!