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What is DOMS and Muscle Memory?

I LOVE this picture that Netty posted in the Nibbles Fitness Forum of her and her husband Craig. Part of what makes me smile is how they work together as a team in their marriage. They are both such a beautiful example.

Netty hates DOMS. So do I. It's probably one of the reasons that long ago I learned not to let myself go regarding exercise. Yes, there are times that our lives get so hectic with other problems to solve that we don't seem to have time to workout. I had to learn, it doesn't have to be ALL or NOTHING! That Go BIG or Go Home is just wrong sometimes.

The truth is a little every day is better than nothing. We actually all can fit in a little every day, right where you are. Yes, I know it's not as fun! But neither is DOMS fun.

Mendy asked me to explain what is DOMS? This is one of my favorite topics ever. THANK YOU Mendy for asking. Mendy runs a fantastic workout group inside the forum and this ties in very well with her helpful posts every week.

I appreciate you so much Mendy!!!!

What is DOMS Anyway?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

But what is THAT?

It's like an injury and it takes time to heal. It's okay to keep working out when sore, but usually it means a little less weight or some light cardio. If you keep working at lower intensity, with good form, it gives some temporary relief and it's good. Time and some Epson Salt bath's will help as well, but mainly time and keep moving.

Letting yourself go and having to get the muscles and the rest of the body to adapt is not fun! Therefore, ditch the ALL or NOTHING mentality. It's okay to go for a 10 minute walk, or turn on some music or a podcast and do some pushups or crunches, or Ab Wheel Rollout for 10 minutes. If you work at home, this is a great way to reset your brain and attitude for being more productive at work during your breaks. Make your breaks productive!

This leads me to one of my favorite topics from college, how muscles grow more protein. Also, how cardio, if intense enough, grows more mitochondria cells and makes the cells you have grow bigger. During the years that I studied for my Nutrition and Fitness Certification it included Physiology 101, but I'll never forget the day I listened to Professor Sonia of Nutrition talk about how we grow Mitochondria cells. It's by doing intense enough cardio and getting our heart rate up enough. Doing HIIT exercise is one of the best ways to accomplish this. The very cool thing about HIIT is that you only need 10-20 minutes a couple days a week, along with your other exercise routines.

Mitochondria cells are the powerhouse cells in the body. It's where energy is produced and these cells even contain the Electron Transport Chain. With my electronics background, it makes me think of little transformers all throughout your body. I think it's the coolest thing ever. There are even electrons involved inside the mitochondria cells. Seriously, you grow more energy in your body by just taking some time to do some pushups or burpees or whatever during your breaks.

It costs nothing, just do it! That is freakin' the coolest thing ever. It also improves your immune system. Having mitochondria gives you the energy to fight off illness. Some people lose the will to fight because they don't have enough of these cells. How sad is that?

Many people wonder, why do I keep going with exercise? I'm limited on what I can do now until my hips get fixed. I never get DOMS anymore, because I'm already doing everything I can. In the gym, I can only do upper body exercises and I can't sit down (my square edges in my bone-on-bone hips get painfully "stuck"). I can use the rowing machine, stationary bike (in the jogging position), and swim if I don't kick too hard.

Since I can only do about 15 different modified weight training exercises, I do at least 5 sets of everything in order to get a full hour workout. My body has adapted to these things. I can't do anything new until my hips are replaced and recovered, so there is no DOMS. But by continuing to do what I can, I take the edge off weight gain and I keep myself prepared for a better recovery later this year.

I maintain a few muscle fibers and mitochondria cells which will help me recover later, and keep me from decaying more than I already am. I think about this all the time. IT MATTERS! So does my nutrition, micro nutrients, protein intake, and amount of calories. This is when most people fall off the wagon in both areas, yet it's the MOST IMPORTANT time to stay on it. Literally, your life depends on it.

What does it mean when your muscles are adapted?

Our muscle fibers will heal from these microtrauma tears with rest, nutrition, hydration, and the healing process in your body.

How do muscles adapt to training?
Murray, Robert, 1949- , author. Practical guide to exercise physiology. p 12, ISBN: 978-1-4504-6180-1

See how strength training creates more muscle tissue, and cardio creates more mitochondria? I don't know about you, but I think it's the coolest thing ever. Thinking about these things all the time keeps me going. If I don't keep going, I decay and start dying. That makes the choice for me.

Doesn't anyone ever think ahead like this? Don't we have enough problems in our life without letting lack of exercise be yet one more horrible problem?

How Do Muscle Cells get Bigger and Stronger?
Murray, Robert, 1949- , author. Practical guide to exercise physiology. p 20, ISBN: 978-1-4504-6180-1

If you are female, you don't have to worry about getting "bulky" because our natural hormone balance is not the same as the men. By watching my own body over the last 61 years I've seen what "natural bulk" is; it's the combination of nice natural female muscle combined with a little too much body fat. Trust me on this.

fat loss vs muscle building sculpture
You can build muscle and lose fat at the same time with proper nutrition.

I always think of it like the vision in this picture. Exercise is what you build. It's that fitness model up at the top. It's something ANYONE can do. It won't show unless you whittle down the body fat with just a slight calorie deficit. The calorie deficit is tricky, it's a narrow margin of calories that is over your RMR, yet under your TDEE. There are many different calculators to make the calorie estimates for those numbers. Professor Sonia in the college nutrition courses taught us to do all of those calculations and make an average.

Since I've been helping people with this for so many years, I took all those scientific equations and made a chart with the averages. It's pretty darn accurate, and I've used my own DEXA scans as well as those from people I've helped to verify that. If you want to know the most accurate numbers for you, go get a DEXA scan.

Since the calculations are merely very accurate estimates and your metabolism ebbs and flows daily and throughout the seasons of your life, you also need to accurately track your food intake over time in order to find out how your body reacts.

You have to treat your nutrition like it's the most important lab experiment you have ever done. If the data is not accurate or you make honest mistakes with your tracking, you won't be able to figure out what is going on.

This is what I help people with in the 1st Phorm App. But if people are not willing to treat this like it's the most important lab experiment they have ever done, well, they stay stuck or like a leaf blowing in the wind.

One of the saddest things I see in the gym are people working so hard every day wondering why it doesn't show. It's because the body fat is hiding their hard work. You can't whittle that away without understand the nutrition part of the equation.

All too often people actually do too much cardio, make themselves extra hungry, then justify the extra calories or don't understand that the actual number of calories and protein matter greatly, or just don't really know how much they are truly consuming. You know, that most important lab experiment that you've ever done?

But I digress, back to the muscle building side of the equation:

What are satellite cells
Satellite cells activated when muscle cells are damaged. Murray, Robert, 1949- , author. Practical guide to exercise physiology. p 21, ISBN: 978-1-4504-6180-1

Have you ever heard of muscle memory?

Unlike other cells in the body, muscle cells don't divide and multiply. Instead they have an alternate way of growing with satellite cells. Your body has 10 to 20 billion satellite cells that lie dormant and become active only when the muscle cells become damaged. Once they become activated they grow more muscle proteins and increase the number of nuclei in the muscle cells. Once your body grows more of these nuclei they stay with you for the rest of your life. That's where the muscle memory comes from. That's why it's just a bit harder on people who have never exercised, they need to activate some satellite cells!


I don't know about you, but I think the ability to build mitochondria cells and activate satellite cells are the coolest thing ever! Anyone can do it, anywhere. You don't need an expensive gym membership, you don't need to spend a lot of money. You just need to get up for 10 minutes and make yourself move every day. Then build from there.

If you need help with what workouts to do, at home or at a gym, you can join me in the most amazing fitness ever, the 1st Phorm App. Not only will I help you with workouts, but I can help you with the most important lab experiment of your life - your accurate nutrition plan which will help you achieve whatever your dream is. Are you willing to put in the work? Let's do it! No excuses. When you join, send me a message right away.

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