Muscle Soreness

Let's say you haven't exercised in awhile. Maybe you went on vacation. Or perhaps you were injured. Whatever the reason, when you take time off from your regular physical routine, your system will become de-conditioned. The less you move, the more muscle loss you will sustain. Anyone who has broken a bone and then had a cast removed can attest to this: the muscles that have been restricted from moving will have shrunk.

When you resume your exercise routine, it is inevitable you will be sore.

Is muscle soreness a good thing? Or a bad thing?

Well, it depends.

I recently returned from a long vacation. This is my first week back, teaching all my classes. And yes, I am quite sore. And my students are probably sore, too. Our muscles are saying, "What the hell?" They were resting and relaxing a week ago, and now we're demanding a lot more from them. Would it be better to just lie around all the time? No.

Soreness means the muscle fibers have been torn and are repairing themselves. This is good, because the muscles get stronger after they are repaired. But muscle tears also mean inflammation at the site of the tears. And inflammation in the body is not always great.

There are particular types of exercise that create more muscle soreness. Elongating contractions of muscles--lengthening the muscle--creates much more soreness than shortening or concentric contractions. Example: when you do a biceps curl, you initially shorten the muscles as you bring the weight up, then lengthen the muscles as you lower the weight. The lengthening phase of the exercise creates most of the muscle soreness. Therefore, if your routine emphasizes the lengthening, you will constantly be sore after your workout.

Constant soreness is not a positive thing. This can indicate a systemic inflammation that the body has to contend with, raising stress hormones. As we know, stress hormones are responsible for screwing up your sleep, increasing fat around the waist, and raising your risk for many diseases. We don't want a constant barrage of stress hormones due to our workouts.

Occasional soreness after a particularly strenuous workout is fine. This is inevitable if you want to build strength. But constant, ongoing soreness throughout the body is a red flag.

If you're constantly sore, take a good look at your exercise routine. Maybe you need to take more time between workouts to recover. Maybe you need to eat more high quality protein to fuel that recovery. Or maybe you need to switch things up. Try a yoga class, or walking, or tai chi, or something gentle to encourage a lowering of those stress hormones.

Working out should not make you sick or injured. Working out should make you stronger, more resilient, healthier.

Looking for a holistic personal training coach to guide you in this process? Leave me a message!