The Dreaded DOMS

Your Exercise Specialist is human.

Like many of my fellow Montanans, I was beginning to feel like I was living somewhere more like Seattle or Portland, after weeks upon weeks of rain and gloom. To make matters worse, it seemed the cycles of rainy stationary fronts would always arrive right around the beginning of the weekend and then park it.

So finally, on a mid-June weekend, when my phone’s weather app called for clearing skies on a Sunday afternoon, I bolted toward the Bridgers for some alpine hiking. I ended up going to one of my favorite trails, Middle Cottonwood, and on up to the summit of Saddle Peak. I did a bit of mixed hiking and trail running on the way up, and after a delicious PB&J on the summit, decided that I would run down.

It was a fun, lovely run through wildflower meadows and riparian forest, but I knew with a couple of miles to go my legs were going to be smoked. A couple of days afterward, I was barely getting down stairs, and my quads remained angry with me for a couple of days after that as well.

I exercise regularly, I consider myself to be in pretty good shape right now, especially aerobically, but the truth is that my legs were not accustomed to nearly five miles of descending trail.

The result? The dreaded Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. Most of us have experienced DOMS at one time or another. It usually occurs after a particularly heavy bout of exercise that we are not accustomed to. That’s the key—even highly trained athletes are not immune if they do something intense and out of the realm of their usual routine. Typically, the delay in delayed-onset-muscle-soreness is 24-48 hours after the exercise bout that causes the damage.

Another detail associated with DOMS, and why my case was particularly rough, is eccentric muscle contractions. Eccentric contractions happen when your muscles lengthen under load—think of putting down a heavy load, or in my case, hitting the brakes a bit each step while running down a mountain. Eccentric muscle contractions are a natural element of muscle function and movement, but an excess amount of them can easily lead to a painful case of DOMS.

Traditional thought blamed microscopic tears in the muscle fibers for the pain and soreness associated with DOMS, but lately, science is not so sure. In fact, the latest research is inconclusive about the mechanism that causes DOMS pain. Worse, there isn’t much solid evidence that any recovery modalities actually speed up the process. In other words, once the muscle soreness has set-in, there’s not much to do except hurry up and wait.

Sorry I don’t have better news, but a little knowledge can help you better cope with DOMS, or perhaps prevent it in the first place. So, to wrap up, here are a few key takeaways:

  • Although science hasn’t agreed on what happens on the cellular level that causes the DOMS response, we do know that DOMS is incurred after intense exercise that an individual isn’t used to, and eccentric muscle contractions tend to lead to DOMS faster. So, if you’re doing something you haven’t done in a while (or ever), take it easy. Or, in my case, if it’s your first alpine hike of the season, perhaps walking down would been wiser.
  • Know that in most instances, the peak of pain occurs around 24-48 hours after the bout of exercise. This too shall pass.
  • Here’s that good news we were looking for—if you repeat similar exercise after your muscles have healed, you should not be as sore the next time, or the next, and so on. Therefore, don’t let a bout of DOMS deter you from consistently exercising, or convince you to give up an new exercise program you have just started!
  • Some studies have suggested a link between Vitamin D and/or sleep deficiencies and occurrence/severity of DOMS. [Cristin, feel free to drop some Vitamin D knowledge and enlighten us.]
  • Although there really haven’t been any scientifically validated studies that link certain recovery methods to relieving DOMS, that shouldn’t necessarily deter you from utilizing some of your favorites. After all, the brain is a powerful thing, and we’re all different and respond differently to certain recovery modalities. That being said, if you’re going through DOMS, or any muscular soreness or stiffness for that matter, things like stretching, massage, foam rolling, compression, elevation, a warm bath, and staying hydrated never hurt.

Be well!

Neal

New Exercise Library

For our latest MUS Wellness online resource, we’ve added a new Exercise Library. You can access the library by clicking the link above or by navigating there via the drop-down on the Events & Media tab located at the top-right of these pages. Currently, the library contains 40 exercises grouped into the following categories:

  • Dynamic Warmups
  • Lower Body Bilateral (Both legs)
  • Lower Body Unilateral (Single leg)
  • Upper Body Push
  • Upper Body Pull
  • Core (Movement)
  • Core (Anti-Movement)
  • Agility/Finisher

This resource is intended to be a reference-type tool to:

  1. Help you select some basic exercises to incorporate into a resistance training routine.
  2. Learn/reinforce correct technique for these exercises.
  3. If you’re comfortable, build your own workout by selecting one to two exercises from each category, which would give you a full-body workout utilizing your major muscle groups and joint actions.

This is the first draft of this library, so we’d love to hear any feedback you have so that we can constantly update and improve it.

This library is not comprehensive. There are literally hundreds of movements and exercises you can do at the gym or at home. This library includes some basics and some of our favorites. Please select exercises to match your current fitness ability and health status. Consult a personal trainer for more help, or to customize a personalized fitness program.

For further resistance training resources from MUS Wellness/Montana Moves, check out the following webinar:

…or browse our Montana Moves video library to find more detailed descriptions on certain exercises and movements.

Be Well (and strong)!

Neal

The Amazing Foot & Ankle Complex

In case you missed our recent webinar on foot & ankle health, here’s a few highlights, plus a short video featuring some exercises and stretches to keep your ankles and feet healthy and happy.

Top Ten Things we learned about our amazing feet.

  1. About a quarter of the bones in your body are located in your feet (26 bones per foot).
  2. Ligaments and tendons are very strong connective tissues. Ligaments connect bones to bones. Tendons connect bones to muscles.
  3. The longitudinal and transverse arches provide strength and support so our feet can support the load of our bodies in addition to whatever we carry with us.
  4. The average person will take between 3 and 4 million steps per year.
  5. Force plate studies show that the foot absorbs at least 3 times body weight per step at slow running speeds.
  6. An elite triple jumper may produce forces of 14 to 16 times body weight during his or her jump!
  7. Sixty percent (60%) of our MUS population who responded to a pre-webinar survey (n=191) reported currently dealing with foot/ankle pain, injury or dysfunction.
  8. Plantar fasciitis was the most common foot/ankle ailment reported by our population.
  9. RICE, or rest/ice/compression/elevation can be a primary therapy for most ailments of the foot and ankle.
  10. For chronic conditions that are not improving, health professionals such as a podiatrist (PDM), orthopedic physician, physical therapist, or licensed massage therapist can help diagnose and treat the condition, so that you can “get back on your feet again”, so to speak.

If your feet are healthy, keeping your ankles mobile and feet strong with some simple stretching and strengthening exercises can be a great form of prevention. You can learn some of these exercises in the following video. Enjoy!

If you want to watch the entire MUS Wellness foot/ankle webinar, just click here.

Be well!

Neal

June Commuter Challenges!

June’s just getting started, the weather is awesome, and if you commute to work via bike, foot, or even public transportation, there’s a couple of local commuter challenges going on this month you may be interested in!

The Montana Commuter Challenge is an annual statewide challenge sponsored by Bike Walk Montana, and the Bozeman Commuter Challenge is a local challenge put together by the Bozeman Commuter Project for all you Bozemanites.

Both challenges offer an opportunity to log your commutes this month, join a local team and see how you fare against other teams, communities and peers; plus offer a chance to win some great prizes! In the meantime, you get to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air, boost your fitness, save gas money and reduce CO2 emissions. Beautiful.

So click on the links above to learn more about the challenge that you’re most interested in, and get started logging those miles!

P.S. MSU Riders: Just a reminder that tomorrow, Friday June 8th is the final day of Bozeman Bike to Work Week, and we’re having a special tent for MSU commuters on the MSU Centennial Mall in front of Montana Hall. There will be snacks, swag, coffee, and you get to hang out with Neal & Cristin. Can you think of a better start to your weekend?

 

 

Bike to Work (in Comfort)

Happy National Bike to Work Week! Although Bozeman chose to delay our Bike to Work Week Festivities (June 4-8), I still rode into the office this morning in solidarity with the rest of the state and nation! Everything is so green and the air is crisp—it’s an outstanding time to ride!

To kick off this special week of riding, we wanted to re-share a video we produced a couple of years back on bicycle comfort, in case you missed it or need a refresher. If you’re comfortable on your bike, your riding will become much more enjoyable and unlimited! Enjoy, and stay safe out there!

 

Happy Bike Month!

May is here, and it’s one of our favorite times of the year! There’s Star Wars Day, Cinco de Mayo, the end of school, Memorial Day weekend, and of course, National Bike Month!

Here’s a few links and news about Bike Month happenings in your community!

  • This week (May 7-11) is National Bike to School week. For those of you with children, check to see if your child’s school is doing special promotions or group rides this week.
  • Next week (May 14-18) is National Bike to Work week. Check your local community calendar for events. Here is some info for Missoula and Bozeman riders:
  • Bike Walk Montana is a great resource anytime to learn more about riding for transportation and riding safety.

On a personal note, I was able to kick off National Bike Month in a fun way last week, while visiting Kalispell and Flathead Valley Community College. On May 1st, a small group from FVCC braved the threat of rain and rode west on one of the Kalispell area’s fantastic Rails-to-Trails paths. The weather turned out to be fine, and we had a really enjoyable after-work ride in the early evening light. Thanks FVCC!

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Saddle Up!

—Neal

 

Swim-to-Bike Transition

We’re on the cusp of National Bike Month, but did you realize that April is Adult Learn to Swim Month? So as we transition from April to May, here is a post from guest-writer Phillip Luebke, addressing the importance of swimming skills for adults.

Phillip Luebke works at MSU-Bozeman as a government contracting advisor for the Montana Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), where he helps Montana companies do business with federal, state and local government agencies. He currently serves as president of the Bozeman Masters Swim Club and is the Top Ten and Records Chair for the Montana Local Masters Swimming Committee (LMSC). He is looking forward to competing in his first USMS National Championship Meet in Indianapolis next month.

Every year the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation formally declares the month of April, “Adult Learn-to-Swim Month.” In many parts of the country, this is the time of year when outdoor pools, lakes, and beaches are opening for spring and summer recreation. It’s a little early for that here in Montana (I’m writing this in the middle of yet another April snowstorm), but it’s never too early to start thinking about summer recreation and water safety.

More than a third of adults in the United States can’t swim the length of a pool, which puts them at risk of being one of the ten people who drown every day in the United States. Summers in Montana are an especially dangerous time. 46% of drowning deaths in Montana occur in June, July and August, and the rate of unintentional drowning deaths in our state is 54% higher than the rate for the U.S.

To help prevent drownings, the Bozeman Masters Swim Club gave free swim lessons to adults during the month of April. They were beginner lessons for adults with little-to-no swimming skills. Some never learned how to swim when they were younger. Others might have had a few lessons as a child, but never achieved a level of competency where they felt comfortable in the water.

You might not find anything strange about a swim club offering swim lessons, but I should point out that it’s not something that is normally offered by a masters swimming club. Masters swimmers (swimmers aged 18+) may need help with their technique or want to build up their strength or endurance, but in general, they already know how to swim. So why are we doing this?

A grant from the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation was the spark that spurred us to offer free adult learn-to-swim (ALTS) lessons last year, but once we saw the impact our lessons were having on the participants in our program, we knew that it was a program that we had to keep going. Learning to swim can be life-changing. The heartfelt gratitude that was expressed by the “graduates” of our program at the end of last year’s sessions is what prompted me to volunteer to be an instructor this year.

As someone who has been swimming since about age seven, I don’t think I ever truly appreciated what it’s like to go through life without knowing how to swim. We have heard some heart-wrenching stories from participants entering our program about what that is like. These are stories I wouldn’t feel right sharing, but this excerpt from the USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Manual paints a pretty vivid picture:

Once a person is convinced that swimming any distance is impossible, a life of avoidance begins. Excuses are made to remain safely on the beach while friends run for a cooling dip. Vacation plans are altered so that swimming is not included. Fearful or nonswimming parents will stay out of the water or instill fear in their kids to keep them safe. Cruises, fishing from a boat, and ferry rides are all accompanied by the concern of, “What happens if we go over?” For anyone who does not know how to swim comfortably, there is a nagging sense of something missed, that the joy others feel while swimming is not available.

That is no way to go through life. Think of all the fun summer activities in Montana that happen in and around bodies of water. Here in Bozeman, we’re doing our small part to eliminate lives full of excuses, avoidance and fear…and the community responded. All three of our sessions filled up just a few weeks after we opened registrations.

I have already seen remarkable improvement from the adults that I have been instructing. Students who struggled with putting their faces in the water on the first day are now taking multiple strokes across the pool and learning to breathe properly so that they can continue to swim without stopping. Recent lessons have included smiles and laughter, along with high-fives and fist-bumps. Six lessons over three weeks is a short period of time to learn anything, but I remain optimistic that most of our students will be able to master the five water safety skills the American Red Cross has identified as critical for “water competency” by the end of this month:

  • Step or jump into the water over your head.
  • Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.
  • Turn around in a full circle and find an exit.
  • Swim 25 yards to the exit.
  • Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.

If you don’t know how to swim, and would like to learn, feel free to reach out to me at president@bozemanmasters.org or 406-600-2771 and I’ll try to point you in the right direction. In addition to the ALTS program in Bozeman, there are at least a couple of USMS-certified ALTS instructors in Kalispell and Missoula, and I know a few folks who give private lessons, but are not USMS-certified.

If you already know how to swim, but would like to improve, I strongly encourage you to check out a U.S. Masters Swimming club near you:

Bozeman Masters Adult Learn to Swim Lessons

Joining the Challenge

We love to hear inspiring stories of our employees challenging themselves and others to get stronger, eat better, and live healthier lives. The following story was shared with us by Megan Schultz, from the W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation at UM Missoula. Enjoy!

Before Christmas 2017 we were having casual conversation about exercise and the topic of planks came up. My coworker Kara and I were telling our Director, Norma, about how good of an overall body exercise a plank is. So, the 3 of us along with Jeremy in our research center (ITRR) embarked on the 28-day plank challenge. Each morning the 4 of us would meet and do planks together in the office. We built up to a 4-minute plank that culminated on Christmas Day!

During the plank challenge, some other employees in our building heard about it and were interested in joining us for another challenge. After the plank challenge, we did a wall-sit challenge where we built up to a 5-minute wall-sit. When we started this challenge, none of us thought we would make 5 minutes! But, we all did. And for those who were not involved with the plank challenge the first time around, they added that on. By the end, we were all doing a 5-minute wall-sit and then we decided on a 2-minute maintenance plank. There were now 8 CFC employees participating!

For the next challenge we wanted to incorporate some lower body and upper body, and Johanna suggested a squat challenge and push-up challenge together. The squat challenge was a different kind, with most days wrapping up with a variety of all the different kinds on the last day. The push-up challenge built up to 60! Some of us did knee push-ups, inclined, wide or just regular. And we continued our 2 minute plank each day at the end of the other exercises.

[This week] we will wrap-up our latest challenge. For this one we looked at a variety and created our own hybrid: squats, bridges, lunges, tricep dips, yoga poses, and the stand-by plank. This challenge has been the most time consuming, but it still only takes about 15 minutes to get it all in! We meet each morning at 10:15 and instead of hanging out catching up by the water cooler, we’re meeting for some exercise!

Today we completed 80 squats, 60 bridges, up to 70 lunges (some of us did a lower amount), 12 tricep dips, and a 1 minute plank! I pushed to start this challenge quickly after the last one ended because I wanted to finish out the challenge with the group before I am gone to have a baby. This has been such a great way to stay active during my pregnancy and I am thankful for the support of my colleagues.

It’s my understanding someone else will spearhead the challenges will I am gone, and I look forward to joining them again when I am back from maternity leave.

Best,

Megan Schultz, Project Manager & Research Associate, ITRR, University of Montana

Challenge group photo 4.6.18
Super strong UM staff celebrating the completion of another challenge and Megan’s soon-to-be new arrival!

As an epilogue, we’re happy to share that Megan had a little baby girl this week and mom and baby are doing well! Congrats Megan, and thanks again for sharing!

 

Thinking like a coach

One of our annual Montana Moves challenges asks you to create your goals for the year. These goals could be personal, professional, or wellness related. (If you haven’t done so yet, this challenge runs until March 4th.) Every January, I must admit I get the most excited to write down my athletic goals for the year. Writing down my big goals gives me a framework, strategy, and plan for the year. For me, I know that in the absence of concrete goals, my exercise is less focused, less consistent, and less effective. As I went through my yearly practice of goal setting and planning this year, I was thinking about the process, and I wanted to share some of that process, because I believe it can be a tool for bridging the gap between having a goal and making it a reality. This is a process that coaches use to build programs for athletes, teams, or clients, but I think many of the concepts translate to goal-setting and planning regardless of the type of goal.  In other words, this process can be used to set personal, professional, or financial goals as well as physical.

Step 1: Begin with the End in mind

This is where your initial goal-setting will come in. I won’t spend much time talking about goal setting here—if you need a refresher, check out this post. The main thing is to begin with the end in mind.  What’s at the end of the journey? What are you trying to accomplish? Is it a big event? Is it something on your bucket list? Is it a personal best? Is it just to look smokin’ hot before your June vacation to some place warm? Be specific, write it out, and put these events on your calendar.

Once I have dates on my calendar, I like to figure out how much time I have to prepare for each event. I even have an app on my phone called “Days Until”. It’s a free, simple app that let’s me know exactly how many days I have until certain events. I even know how many days until my hundredth birthday (20,589 days, so there’s plenty of shopping days left for you to get me something nice). I also like to count how many weeks until these events, because a week is a nice, neat unit of training measurement that many coaches use, and is often referred to as a microcycle.

Steps 2 and 3: What’s the Big Picture? How does today’s workout fit into that?

Once I know how many weeks I have to train, I start thinking about the big picture. What are the general concepts I’ll need to work on over large chunks of time in order to reach my goal? One thing that I’ve done the past couple of years that’s worked for me is to divide my year out by the month–once again, a nifty, pre-made training unit. For me, I often use a month as a macrocycle. Anything from 4 to 8 weeks is common for a macrocycle.  It’s long enough to see a training effect before changing the emphasis of a program. This consistent varying of a training program allows for specific results, and is the best way to avoid the dreaded “training plateau”.

A couple of years ago, I made a marcrocycle spreadsheet that keeps me dialed into my training goals, and focused on upcoming events. Here’s what it looks like: 2018 Macrocycle (Neal) If you like it, feel free to copy it, modify it, and use it for yourself.

Let’s break down a few month-macrocycles from this spreadsheet as examples. Right now, my training focus is to build my aerobic base through cardiovascular training and cardio-strength training. My next event on the calendar that I’d like to be ready for is Run to the Pub, on St. Patrick’s Day here in Bozeman. So my microcycle (week) is structured to includ two running days, 2-3 resistance training days, plus cross-training days with things like skiing and swimming. Next month, I’ll bump the running up a little. In the meantime, each cardiovascular training session is designed to build up an aerobic base (nothing fancy, just building up volume) and each trip to the gym should focus on driving my work capacity (the ability to do high quality work while warding off fatigue). In this case, what I’m doing for resistance training is a complement to what I’m doing with my cardio exercise.

If you’re wondering, “Ok, Neal, you’re training for a road race, but you’re only running twice a week? Shouldn’t you be running more?” Perhaps. But alas, I’m not 23 anymore. I know my body, and these days I have to build the road miles slowly. Also, I like to ski, and XC skiing is great cardio. And finally, I’m not trying to hit my peak fitness until this summer, so I build up slowly to that, which helps me stay healthy. Showing up to a starting line healthy is always my first goal when designing a training program.  If you’re injured, you can’t train, and you can’t race–at least not well anyway–and the quickest way to get injured is to do too much too soon.

There are two events highlighted on my calendar this year. Those are the events I want to peak for and perform my best: the Bozeman Triathlon in June and the Montana Cup XC race in late October. My training goals and focus are designed to get me to those events fit and healthy. If I feel like doing something different, or I’m having a low motivation day, a quick look at my macrocycle calendar helps me re-focus. It’s on the wall behind my desk, along with my written out goals.

Now let’s look at October and compare it to February.  October is a peak month. My aerobic base will have hopefully been built.  So I’ll be free to do more intervals, tempo runs, and speedwork in preparation for the Montana Cup XC race. To me, this is the fun stuff, but it has to be earned. I can’t start with it. My microcycles (weeks) in October call for four runs per week, plus a bike and endurance lift for cross training.  That leaves a rest/recreation day for other fun. Perhaps some fall hikes.

After the Montana Cup, my racing is done for the year, and I switch gears to off-season strength, hitting the gym three times a week and lifting pretty heavy stuff (for me). This change is good for my body and my mind.

In summary

Start with your SMART goal, write it down, and get it on the calendar. Begin with the end in mind. Then, if it’s helpful, write out some training focuses–perhaps chunking them into macrocycles. Finally, write down your plan for the week (microcycle), making sure it fits into the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. On low motivation days, look at your goals. Ask yourself why you are going to exercise today.

Finally, always be able to answer these two questions:

“What is my goal for today’s workout?” (Now)

“What am I working toward?” (Big picture-future)

Happy training!

Neal

P.S. For more on training goals and how to manipulate exercise variables to reach goals faster, check out today’s webinar Sets, Reps, and Such.