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How to Create and Prevent Muscle Soreness

At 1:14 am I awoke frozen like a bronze street lounger in Santa Fe. The rigidity caused not by paralysis but by a forcefield of pain surrounding my body. Any movement breached the field and caused a throbbing painmy joggling muscles hurt to reverberate through my body. Even the minute motion caused by my contracting and expanding diaphragm was excruciating.

This is the life of a marathoning, joggler.

What was the soreness caused by.  I’m not sure.  60 min of basketball?  60 minutes volleyball?  20 minutes of joggling?  The retired 444 days of a running and juggling streak?  Maybe it’s just that I’m getting old.  Whatever the cause, I’d sure like to figure out a way to reduce the pain.

Sometimes it’s good to be sore

Of course, from a training standpoint, soreness is good.  According to experts, muscles only get stronger and gain more endurance when they are pushed to their limits.  Improvements are made through the process of stressing and recovery.  That means pain.  It also means you need to rest.

As Dr Mirkin says,

If you don’t run very fast in practice, you won’t be able to run very fast in races.

So, if you want to be a faster joggler, you’ve got to sometimes run faster.  And when you go faster, you’ll feel more pain the next day.

What causes muscle soreness?

According to the folks at The Final Sprint, when you work your muscles ’til they burn you damage them. The soreness felt the next day is your body’s way of telling you it’s healing so give it a break.  The soreness is caused by muscle fiber damage not lactic acid build-up as was once thought.  But you won’t usually feel it right away as it takes about 8 hours to feel the soreness.

What doesn’t work

Alright, so you know what caused the soreness and why you should want some.  But what should you do about it?  First, a couple of things that don’t work.

1. The cool-down. Doing a cool-down phase in your workout won’t affect the amount of soreness you feel.  You should still do one however because it will help speed recovery by removing lactic acid.  Unfortunately, lactic acid build-up is not the cause of soreness.

2. Stretching. Forget about the post-exercise stretch as a soreness reducer. It probably won’t help. Soreness is not due to contracted muscle fibers.

How to reduce soreness.

1.  Rest or take it easy until the soreness goes away.

2.  Take some pain killers.  They may also have the added benefit of increasing muscle mass and strength.

3.  Use the Stick.  Perhaps it’s psychological but I think this Stick thing really helps reduce next day soreness.  It increases blood flow to the stimulated muscles and helps speed recovery.

4.  Ice bath. All the running pros are using this technique to help reduce next day pain.  But according to this Running Times article, you don’t need to submerge in Arctic Ocean water temperatures.  Ideal is between 54-60F (12 – 15C).

Muscle soreness is the number one problem that’s keeping me from becoming a world-class joggler.  Hopefully, I’ll figure this one out and eventually qualify for that Boston Marathon.

How do you deal with soreness?  Leave a comment and let the rest of us know.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Wes May 15, 2008, 6:57 am

    Yea, I think you are getting old :-) Whippersnapper ;-) I find swimming in the pool helps tremendously with my soreness. The cool water is close to an ice bath, and the limited physical activity helps to flush the muscles!

  • Perry May 15, 2008, 8:52 am

    Perhaps I’ll try this. I’ve always wanted to try doing a triathlon. Just haven’t figured out how to swim and juggle.

  • kara May 15, 2008, 1:25 pm

    Drinking fluids help. Go for a walk.
    I never take drugs.

  • Average Joggler May 15, 2008, 2:31 pm

    I too find it difficult to do the drug thing. I just never remember to take the pills.

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