Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Muscle Soreness 101!

by Kris Pitcher

Do you remember the first time you were really sore from a workout? You might have done something new or been just getting back into it. You might have even said some bad words...

We each certainly have our own tolerance level for being sore too. One thing to be sure of though, being sore is not a requisite of a good workout. Meaning, you don't have to be sore to have had a good workout. It's also not a build up of toxins or lactic acid.

Me? I want to not be able to walk down the stairs the day after I've worked my quads. But I'm crazy like that. Muscle soreness, or "delayed onset muscle soreness", DOMS - is the result of micro tears during the eccentric contraction (when the muscle is lengthening under load).

DOMS is a normal process of muscle adaptation and allows for our muscles to grow and gain strength and stamina. We usually feel the soreness a day or two days following the activity or exercise. Note this is not the same as an acute injury like a strain or sprain. Nothing like it.

What do we do? Well, the jury is out and researchers don't agree. But there are a few things which are generally accepted:

  • Active Recovery - low impact, to increase blood flow - similar to what you might do for a cool down, walking for instance
  • Rest & Recover - it takes 3-7 days to wait it out
  • Gentle Massage - can reduce soreness, increase blood flow and reduce inflammation
  • Use R.I.C.E - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation - ice no longer than 15 minutes and always have a barrier between your skin
  • Gentle Stretching - research doesn't find stretching alone to reduce muscle pain, but it feels good
DOMS can be an indication that you've done too much too soon. Often when we change our routine we feel sore at first. Then once we've become adapted to it...no more soreness. Guess what? Time to change it up again. Know your tolerance for muscle soreness, and work with that. It doesn't mean you have or haven't had a good workout. Weekend warrior? Plan to sit at your desk on Monday.

Knowing a little bit about muscle soreness 101 should help you determine if you might be overtraining, under-training, or if your recovery is right on track! Now, can someone help me down the stairs?

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