Thursday, February 7, 2013

How to Cope with Muscle Soreness

You know the feeling too well… The morning after an intense workout you wake up to discover someone put your legs and butt through a shredder while you slept and set your core section on fire. MUSCLE SORENESS strikes again.  You know it’s perfectly normally and can’t be completely avoided but what the heck is making your muscles so sore anyway, RIGHT!? Relax, we’ll break it down for you.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the official name for the aches you feel the day after a workout. Especially if it’s the first day in a new program or after a long layoff.  Soreness sets in 12-24 hours after a workout and peaks 24-48 hours after. Hurts so good, doesn’t it?
High intensity exercise routines and exercises cause micro tears and inflammation in the muscle fibers, which result in soreness, fatigue, stiffness and reduced range of motion. Your body retreats into a state of recovery and is under repair while your mind forms a love/hate relationship with serious training programs.
While there is no proven method to completely prevent soreness after an intense workout, there are many ways to reduce the impact after it sets in.
  • ICE bath
A cold bath after your workout for a minimum of 5-25 minutes can help reduce muscle soreness by up to 20%
  • Active Recovery
A low-impact cardio exercise such as jogging or swimming helps because it forces blood to circulate throughout your body, not only warming the muscles but delivering oxygen and nutrients to increase rate of healing and allowing  you to perform…
  • Gentle Stretching
Stretching after a warm up (see above ) relaxes the muscle and reduces stiffness without over loading the muscles (making them worse).  It also increases basic flexibility as it speeds up the return of full range of motion and prevents cramping. ( You DO NOT want cramping. Repeat, DO NOT.)
As with many physiological changes, your body will adjust to the new workouts and soreness should decrease significantly after future sessions.  The more often you workout the less sore you’ll be as the body continues to get stronger.  The first two workouts are the toughest in term of soreness, after that the body handles the physical demands much better. This is a process scientists refer to as “toughening up.” Not to be confused with over training.
There is actually a benefit to the soreness you feel.  Any activity by the body (in this case the repair of muscle tissue) requires energy so that soreness you feel is your workout still working for you. Calories are burned in the process of rebuilding muscle tissue, and while this seems minimal in one day, over the course of 8 weeks it adds up. Another example of how workouts pay off after they are over and why nutrition is just as important on days off as it is on training days.
It is a proven fact that high intensity training for improvement in a program will cause soreness.  There are several ways to cope that allow you to maximize gains while minimizing pain.  Though soreness may be a nuisance, it’s actually a reminder that your body is hard at work strengthening itself and all the while burning more energy in the process. As always, if your soreness turns into intense pain or persists for more than 5 days check with a doctor as you may have injured yourself. Otherwise smile and be glad you’re sore, you earned it!

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