Prevent post-ride aches and pains

If you find yourself hobbling around for days after a hard ride (you know, when the simple act of walking down stairs is agony…) GP and cyclist Andy Ward has put together some invaluable advice.

What is it?

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is characterised by aching or stiffness in the muscles a day or two after exercise. It is different to the acute pain felt after an injury and subsides gradually over the next few days. It is more common after a sudden increase in exercise and is thought to be due to microscopic tears of the muscle fibres. Eccentric exercises (like lowering weights, squats, running downhill) cause the most DOMS. Normal cycling in entirely concentric – the muscles are not lengthened against resistance. 

Treating DOMS

There is evidence that active recovery can help alleviate DOMS. After an intense effort, take a tip from Sir Bradley Wiggins and cool down with an easy spin on the turbo trainer. If you really feel like living the life of a pro, sports massage has also been shown to help soreness. Wearing compression clothing after exercise, and even doing yoga can, also help. Standard treatments such as anti-inflammatories, ice packs and rest can be worth a try and gentle stretching is likely to feel good, even if the evidence doesn’t back up its effectiveness. 

Preventing DOMS

Prevention is better than cure. Warming up before a big effort can reduce DOMS. Eccentric exercises are great for building strength, but if you’re new to them, build up gradually and don’t get carried away in your first sessions. Avoid sudden increases in exertion – stick to the 10 per cent rule (don’t up your activity by more than 10 per cent per week). If DOMS is a recurrent problem for you, it might be worth talking to an experienced coach. If your soreness doesn’t settle within a week, consider seeking medical advice. 

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