Friday, April 4, 2014

OH What A Relief It Is

We have all experienced it after a hard work out or a difficult race.  You push yourself to max effort and the next morning simple tasks like getting out of bed or walking down the stairs can be a painful and labor some experience.  Your muscles are on fire and downright hurt, leaving you wondering if you will ever be able to work out again.
Rest assured that muscle soreness is not all bad. In fact, muscle soreness is often a good thing.  According to Allan Goldfarb, Ph.D. a professor of exercise physiology at UNC Greensboro featured in Runner’s World Magazine states muscle soreness is proof your body is adapting and growing fitter.  You are reprogramming your muscle structure and making weaker muscles stronger. This is where growth comes from.

As you exercise you need to be aware of how you feel and gage your soreness level.  Like an engine, there is a fine line between running at peak performance and redlining that likely will cause damage. You need to understand what normal soreness from increased work load is and what overuse which can lead to injury is. Being in tune with your body is extremely important.
Sometimes the physical stress of exercise manifests itself as soreness while you are still working out.  You can minimize mid run soreness by making sure  you are in good shoes that have less than 400-500 miles on them and you can also run on softer surfaces. For cycling, stay away from hills after a hard workout and spin in a smaller gear. If lifting weights, you can lower the weight and increase reps for some active recover.
You may feel fine during and immediately after a hard run or workout, only to experience soreness a day or two later. This soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS that can last 5-7 days. DOMS usually results from an increased effort in training or racing that pushes your body past what you are trained to do. You can do an easy workout while you are dealing with DOMS but you need to refrain from another intense workout for a few days to allow your body time to repair and grown stronger.
While gaging your activity level pre and post hard workouts is important to managing muscle soreness, there are other activities you can do to help bring some relief to soreness.
Sitting in an ice bath for 10-20 minutes following a hard workout is a great way to reduce inflammation.
While ice is good immediately following a hard workout, after 24 hours heat therapy increases blood flow that bring nutrient-rich blood to the muscles to aid in the repair process.
Twenty to thirty minutes of low-impact exercise increases blood flow to muscles that helps reduce trauma and speed up recovery. If you run, try easy spinning or swimming. Cross training is a great way to engage muscles in a different capacity.
Who doesn’t love a good massage? Massage also increases blood flow to the damaged muscles and can reduce soreness by as much as 30 percent. Foam rollers are excellent for self-massage.

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.