Probably like everyone else, I go through phases where I’ll pursue a certain exercise for a while before I return to my regular routine. Maybe there is something new at the gym or maybe you are out of town and are doing/using what is available at your new location meaning different.
Changing it up is actually a great thing! It tricks the body causing muscle confusion and whipping it out of its status quo helping you achieve results–um a good thing, right. Maybe it is a new exercise format or going longer or increasing intensity. Whatever it is, have you noticed an unpleasant feeling or sensation a few hours later? Didn’t know you had muscles there! Or OMG, I am extremely sore!
Why Am I So Sore?
You definitely feel it. Your muscles are sore and maybe a little stiff anywhere from 12 – 72 hours from doing the exercise. Apparently the eccentric or lengthening phase of muscle contraction is to blame as it causes the most soreness. Isometric or static (like staying in a yoga pose) causes much less muscle soreness. And then concentric or shortening phase actually doesn’t cause muscle soreness. (Guess what, you can’t avoid eccentric contraction. It’s going to happen).
Experts will tell you that the soreness is due to micro tears in the muscle that was exercised. Additionally, I recently read that after muscle tearing, calcium collects in the muscle which in turn contributes to inflammation and also pain because histamine, prostaglandins, and potassium accumulation. I used to hear it was all due to lactic acid. Now apparently that is no longer an accepted explanation because lactic acid isn’t present hours later when the soreness occurs.
How to Feel Better/Treatment:
Do anything that increases blood flow to that sore area! Choices might be low intensity work like walking, slow and gentle stretching or yoga, massage (even as little as 10 minutes), hot tub or sauna visits, or even taking a hot bath. You can also take Ibuprofen which will help with the inflammation and pain. And then you could do the hot/cold treatment. Try alternating ice for 15 minutes and a heating pad for 15 minutes.
Overall, these strategies will help you feel better. Notice that I didn’t say do nothing. Now as you return to the exercise, you’ll find that muscle soreness is less intense than the first time. The reason is because your muscles are getting stronger.
I personally like to alternate intense days with a lighter day. My lighter days might consist of taking a long walk or doing the step mill for 30 minutes and always followed up by yoga. Whatever you do, don’t stop!