DOMS V Fatigue

One of the hardest things for a regular gym goer can be knowing the difference between DOMs and fatigue.

Most of us are aware of the concept of over training, but in reality most of us don’t really hit genuine over training territory, we can however reach the point of real fatigue, which could unchecked put us at risk of overtraining.

The key is knowing the difference between your body feeling DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) which can be a normal sign that you have pushed your body harder than normal in a particular training session or accross a particular week, but which should go within a day or two, being tired (which could be because of lack of rest/sleep) and actual fatigue.

Fatigue is more than being tired, it can manifest itself in a variety of ways that go beyond just feeling a bit kanckered, including; difficulty concentrating, having less stamia than normal, difficulty sleeping or sleep not making you feel any better, anxiety, lacking motivation and feeling less enjoyment from things you normally like to do.  These symptoms also normally last for longer than those of pure tiredness and can feel more intense making everything feel harder not just your training.

From experience I would say that fatigue can also make your body feel sore, giving you almost DOMS like symptoms, which can sometimes lead us to thinking we have DOMS which we can just push past when in fact our bodies are probably fatigued and need a real break.

Normally, and as long as you act quickly enough a few days down time (mentally as well as physically) will often get you back to feeling ok again.

So the key is recognising in yourself when you are tired because you’ve worked hard and when you are geninely fatigued and at the point of needing a rest.

For me, the key give away if enjoyment.  I don’t mind DOMS normally as they normally occur when my training is going well.  When I start to feel frustrated in sessions or start making excuse not to train and everything hurts I know the time has come to take a few days off and regroup.

The key here is learning to listen to your body as we all react in different ways and recognise and react to your own body.  Overtime you may see patterns which you can then work around to ensure you don’t reach the point of fatigue.

The most important thing to remember is no matter how much you like training sometimes you need to rest.





For some reason over the last two days I’ve had really bad DOMs.

I almost never gets DOMs normally. Context: I teach most days and then train 4 times a week plus run sometimes so it’s rare I go more than a day without training in some form so my body is pretty used to what it has to do.

Last week I was in Edinburgh for two days and Wolverhampton over the weekend.  This plus work and an exam meant that I only taught 4 classes (I’d normally do 8+) and got one chance to train.

Result of this was when I taught a spin and a Body Pump on Saturday morning my body apparently felt it!

On Saturday night I went to a Paranormal evening at Wolverhampton Airport (I’ll come back to that in my next blog) and woke up on Sunday with quads that cried every time I got in and out of a chair! My spin class this morning was interesting – largely because I’m just not used to training with sore muscles!

So if you’re new to exercise and experiencing DOMS for the first time here’s what I think you need to know:

  1. DOMS are temporary — depending on how intense you will feel OK again in about two to four days without having to do anything (if you don’t feel better by then it might be an injury).
  2. Make sure you warm-up and cool-down.  Making sure your muscles are prepared for exercise and safely recover from physical stress can help reduce the likelihood of DOMs (they won’t guarantee you won’t get them though).
  3. Build up the intensity of your training slowly. If you’re brand new to any type of training and don’t build up your weights / distance etc. your body will react more dramatically to the stress (plus you increase the risk of injury).
  4. If you’re suffering from DOMs try gently massaging the area affected (tip getting a deep tissue massage will not make you feel less sore!).  Likewise using a foam roller to gently roll out your sore muscles may help.
  5. Keep moving whilst you have DOMs.  Not really intense exercise allow your muscles to recover – but getting the blood flowing and muscles moving (walking, easy biking, swimming) can help you feel better.
  6. Drink lots of water – drinking water makes everything feel better!