As we exercise, we create microtrauma in the muscle fibres, connective tissue and bones.
This microtrauma causes DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and associated pain.
Depending on the nature of the activity this damage will range in severity. Because of the
repetitive nature and long duration of endurance events, DOMS are highly prevalent and
can last longer than a week if not tackled.
Research suggests the most comprehensive forms of reducing DOMS are massage, active
recovery, water submersion, and ice. Massage can reduce tension in muscles, reducing
muscle stiffness, increasing blood flow, and decreasing muscle soreness. It is key in flushing
out the lactic acid and general breakdown of tissue that build up during exercise. A massage
however isn’t always the easiest to come by. Often an easier, more regular alternative would
be a massage gun. These portable, handheld devices enable the user to provide percussive
massage treatment that promotes muscle recovery and reduces muscle soreness through the same principles as general massage.
Active recovery essentially denotes movement – the worst thing to do after an endurance
event is to be completely sedentary. Getting the body moving encourages blood flow like
how massage works.
Water submersion and ice can be combined by having an ice bath. Whilst not the nicest way
to recover, it does have its benefits in the same way that active recovery and massage do.
The water compresses the muscles, and the ice provides not only a numbing effect, but it
also encourages the lactic acid heavy blood to leave the body’s extremities and move to the
centre of the body – then when you step out the new fresh blood is rushed into the muscles
An ice bath isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and so science has provided alternatives to such
compression dilemmas. Designed by an MD, PhD, Normatec boots are compression-based
leggings/arm bands that inflate and deflate to compress the muscles to improve recovery.
More recently they have integrated massage technology into the boots – “Normatec uses
dynamic air compression to create a restorative massage that helps you feel refreshed
faster. 7 levels of compression and a patented Pulse technology deliver precise treatment to
5 overlapping zones with ZoneBoost™ by using biomimicry to replicate the natural muscle
pumps and one-way valves of the legs.”
Long duration events use up our fuel reserves. To replenish these fuel reserves and recover
adequately there are several avenues to choose. To overly simplify this process, the most
obvious recovery source is hydration and protein. Research suggests that around 20g of
protein ingested in the hour post exercise will increase recovery rate tenfold. This recovery
rate also has a drop off – the longer you leave the ingestion the less of an effect it will have
on the recovery process.