I got a comment from someone the other day stating, "Tyler, I exercise all the time, I ride my exercise bike, I do yoga, even strength training. But, the other day I went for a short run and today my legs are killing me!" The reason for this is because this person doesn't usually run. Your body gets sore when you work something you haven't in a while.
This is known in the biz as "muscle confusion" which can be caused by muscle atrophy or inactivity. You see, the body lives by the "use it or lose it" mentality. When you don't do something often enough, your body has no need for that specific muscle set so that tissue is broken down.
Many of us may have even experienced this in a daily setting. Maybe you exercise frequently and then go help a friend paint their house. The next day you wake up and your shoulders are sore from all of those brush strokes. There are many examples of this, and as I said, it is inevitable that people get sore from activity throughout their lives, so below is a list of ways you can embrace the soreness.
1. Embrace the Pain - Simple enough, we have all heard of the saying, "No pain, no gain!" Absolutely true, and athletes live by this motto. Once you can embrace the thought that the pain is your body breaking down and becoming stronger for next time, you will be looking forward to that post-exercise soreness to let you know that you worked hard! For those of you that are not sore after a workout, well, maybe you weren't pushing yourself hard enough, or its time to change up your workout program.
2. Anticipate - If you are starting a brand-new exercise regimen, or are changing up your periodization, you just know you are going to be sore the next day. Make sure you take it easy on day 1, 2, and 3 if necessary so that you don't shock your body too much. Many people jump off the couch all gung-ho to get in shape and hit the gym hard, only to barely be able to move the next day which can lead to being discouraged or potentially injured! A proper workout periodazation should be repetitive over a few weeks to allow your body to grow, adapt and excel at your workouts, so take your time!
3. Fuel Your Body - You wouldn't put regular gasoline in a race car, so why feed your body junk when you are exercising hard? You don't want to hinder your results and waste your efforts in the gym, so make sure you are fueling your body with the essential vitamins and nutrients that it needs to repair and get stronger.
4. Stretch - Stretch after workouts and on your "recovery" or "off" days. Stretching opens up the muscle fibers and allows greater blood flow and circulation to your repairing muscles. Think of your blood as the transport system for the construction that is going on in your muscles. Your blood is bringing all of those crucial vitamins and nutrients that you ingested (tip #3) to your muscles so that they can repair and rebuild!
5. Ice - Many of us associate using ice just for injuries. Well, when you exercise, you are creating microtrauma, or mini-tears in the muscle fibers which can be classified as injuring them. Using ice reduces inflammation and increases blood flow around your body to help rebuild and repair. Ice for 20 minutes at a time though, nothing more than that as you will just be freezing the area rather than helping.
6. Recovery Workouts - Probably the last thing you feel like doing when you are sore is to work out. But sitting around doing nothing is actually worse for you. Again, we want to get that blood moving to get into your muscles and repair and rebuild, and nothing moves your blood better than exercise. Keep in mind though, your workouts when you are sore should be much easier and just be used to move the blood and open up your muscles. Yoga is a great treatment for this as it not only warms up your body and gets the blood moving but it also stretches you out and aids in the repair!
I know myself that I love (but also hate) the DOMS. Chronic fit-people refer to DOMS as their muscle soreness (Delayed, Onset, Muscle, Soreness) after a tough workout. People that exercise frequently actually really begin to crave that feeling of a good workout. Some of you may get to the point where you love it as much as we do!