We have all been there at one point or another. Especially when we are unfit or try a new exercise that uses muscles we never knew we had. But why does this happen and how do we combat it? Can it be prevented? Also, what’s up with it only showing up 2 days after you exercise sometimes, and within a few hours to a day at other times?
Muscle soreness happens when your muscles are adapting to a new exercise. This can be if you have never really exercised before, and decided to start exercising, or even if you have exercised for a while, doing say jogging, but decide that you would now like to try swimming. In order to level up, we do need to change things up, such as do more reps, or use heavier weights or run for longer, whatever. This is a natural result of that effort. Just to clarify, if you muscles aren’t feeling sore, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you haven’t exercised hard enough. If you feel like you are out for a lovely stroll as if you have all day to walk that km, and you never even get a little bit out of breath, that is a sign that you aren’t exercising hard enough. The pain is believed to be caused by the tiny microscopic tears that occur during exercise. This is normal and nothing to worry about. That is why we need protein to heal and build stronger muscles. It can also be lactic acid that is left on the muscles (a by product formed when your body converts glucose to energy that can be used for exercise). This is still being researched though. Your muscles getting sore is a sign that your muscles are adapting and getting stronger. If you are feeling sharp or searing pain while exercising or after, that is cause for concern, and it may be best to at least chat to a pharmacist about it if not a doctor.
There isn’t too much you can do to prevent it. It is a natural part of exercising at times. But the following things can help:
- Cooling down properly (walking is a good way to do that), and making sure you stretch gently.
- Drinking a cup of coffee before exercise.
- Taking a lukewarm bath after your exercise.
- Eating or drinking things like Blueberries, ginger, and drinking cranberry juice.
- Stay well hydrated throughout the day and during your workout too, every 20 mins, you should get some water during a workout.
- I have also heard that icing sore muscles can help prevent further soreness. I myself have never tried this.
- Massage! Very sore at the time, but if done right, it helps a little.
I also found that when my muscles were really sore, I walked to warm them up, and then gently stretched, and applied arnica gel, you can also use deep heat, or if in doubt, ask your pharmacist. It’s also good to take a rest day or two. But I find my muscles definitely feel better when I do very gentle exercise, like walking. Muscle soreness is unfortunately unavoidable sometimes, but using these methods we can try to at least minimise it.
It seems that there isn’t much of an explanation as to why muscle soreness is sometimes so delayed. It seems that immediate pain is more a sign that you really overdid it or hurt yourself. I can attest to that fact a little. I did very many squats and lunges one day a few years ago at gym, feeling invisible. My husband picked me up when I was done, and by the time we got home 10 minutes later, the stairs were a real ordeal! Getting up was torture, I just wanted to permanently lie down and not move. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! I took me a good couple of days to get over that, and I haven’t pushed myself to that extent without being fit enough to since. Easy does it!
Be safe while exercising, listen to your body, you should be able to distinguish between that burning muscle fatigue you get when you push yourself hard, and that sudden sharp pain that means something may have gone wrong. Use the tips above to help your muscles out a little. If you feel discouraged when the muscle soreness happens, take a break for a day or two and get back in the saddle. 🙂