Items 5 to 7 of my DOMS reduction tactics are detailed below, adding to the following interventions discussed already in previous entries as potentially contributing to my lessened post-exercises soreness: resting enough, sleeping enough, reducing stress, and engaging in light, recovery-oriented physical activity.
5. Get stronger. Gaining strength through a more committed and sustained approach to resistance training – including working on my less-used muscles (the ones that tend to not get overused in climbing) – seems to have had a tremendous impact on my ability to recover from hard climbing days that used to leave me hurting, as well as my capacity to recover more quickly from hard resistance-training workouts, too.
In previous years, I’ve consistently fallen into the seductive cycle of letting go of strength work virtually entirely for months on end during my outdoor climbing season, and I think this has been detrimental to both my body and my climbing in the end. Gradually detraining from my peak strength levels throughout the season while often simultaneously climbing too much and not resting enough, I would also build up muscle imbalances and accrue minor tweaks and pains. However, by working to more conscientiously stay true to my intention to keep some resistance training in my life throughout outdoor climbing seasons, combined with resting enough to allow for recovery, I am finding that I feel less sore; appear to lose less strength (detraining); seem to incur fewer minor aches, injuries and pains; and overall have more energy and recover faster.
6. Hot tub (or hot bath). Maybe it’s just me, or just some of us, but nothing feels better (except maybe a massage) the day after a hard workout on my sore muscles than a hot bath or hot tub. But that’s just me. The scientific jury is still out on if any form of hydrotherapy (hot, cold, thermo-neutral or alternating hot and cold baths) can be proven effective at ameliorating post-exercise pain or enhancing recovery. As with all things DOMS-related, my take on this is to do what feels best to you and seems to work for your body, until or unless clearly proven information comes down from the powers that be showing that what you’re doing in the name of recovery is definitely, without a doubt, causing more harm than good.
7. Self massage/massage. Another still-somewhat controversial treatment for DOMS, massage (or self-massage/self-myofascial release) seems to have staunch supporters on both sides, with some folks claiming it does nothing, and others dying to crawl onto the next massage table they find in their path. I fall into the latter camp. I love a good deep-tissue massage, and if I can’t get one from another person, that’s what the foam roller and Thera Cane Massager are for, right?
Recent studies on massage and DOMS seem to support my long-held love of massages for alleviating post-exercise pain, such as “Manual therapy ameliorates delayed-onset muscle soreness and alters muscle metabolites in rats,” and “Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures,” and “Effects of therapeutic massage on gait and pain after delayed onset muscle soreness.”
Up Next Week: Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions: DOMS Prevention and Attenuation Tactics (IYC Series), Part 5
This multipart series of articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. This information and advice is based on my 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.
One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!