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Manic Monday ~ Muscle Soreness: Take it away!

There is never a shortage of stories regarding muscle soreness when you are in the health and fitness field. I've had many clients share their experiences with me. For one, because their soreness led to a few days of grunting and "crying." Another reason they share their experience is because they can find a little sympathy (umm...giggles) from me. Soreness is painful, nothing to laugh about. But when a client tells me they were unable to get off the toilet because their legs and glutes were so sore... I can't help it....I burst a giggle! In all fairness, that muscle soreness was a result of hard work!

I don't really care for the phrase: "no pain, no gain." Pain can be an indicator that something is wrong. If overlooked, a serious injury can be had. Muscle soreness, as painful as it can be, usually is the result of working certain muscles in a new way. It might be due to extra effort or work on that muscle or a new movement that prompted that muscle to fire. When first starting a program with an individual, I would recognize that their body was in a state of "rest, " was sedentary. The only challenge to muscle groups were daily motions of walking, performing everyday tasks at work and at home. The body was adapted to this lifestyle. After our very first low intensity workout, there would a 95% chance that individual would experience soreness in a day or two. For some, this would be enough to get frustrated and doubt the journey of exercise. For others, it was an indicator that they are making changes as their muscles are worked. Muscle soreness usually is caused by a pooling of lactic acid in the muscle. Recovery (time and mild activity) will allow for a decrease in soreness. And simple methods, like warm Epsom salt baths, stretching, and Advil can be effective in reducing the soreness. But sometimes, soreness seems to be constant for some. And in many cases it becomes a hindrance when it becomes a daily occurrence. Many people can have different reasons for short lived or long term muscle soreness.

For some people who are experiencing long term muscle soreness, one reason may be due to a lack of amino acids. Amino acids are found in proteins. A specific term, branch chain amino acids (BCAA), are very helpful in fast recovery of worked muscles. If a diet is low in protein consumption, chances are there is a lack of BCAA. Consuming more chicken, lean beef, and low fat dairy are a few of the greater sources of BCAA. There are also BCAA supplements available, however your research on BCAA first and see if a diet rich in certain proteins will help. Another reason for constant soreness is the muscles inability to recover due to overtraining. Realistically, muscle recovery deserves a good 48-72 hours at least. Recovery time also depends on the type of training. If a person has a muscular endurance class that works muscles at a low weight with high repetitions, then recovery time may require 48 hours. If a power lifter is working a muscle group with a much higher weight and several specific heavy weight exercises, then the recovery time should be much longer (3-6 days). So it all depends on the regime. Sometimes people directly work a specific muscle group and the very next day indirectly will work that very muscle group. When this occurs, the muscle doesn't have proper recovery time and can become weak or produce longer times of soreness. For example, a direct exercise like the chest press works the pectoral muscles (mainly), but the triceps are indirectly involved as the arms extend and retract. So if someone happened to directly work triceps the day before a chest workout, then those triceps are being worked two days in a time to fully recover. This kind of simple overlap is becoming more common with functional or cross training regimes and can cause a lack of recovery time because so many muscle groups are being used day after day in these trainings. Ideally, a proper rest of these muscles need to be incorporated to avoid constant soreness. Another culprit of soreness is sickness. Ever had influenza? Then you know the feeling of muscle aches! It's awful! The mechanisms underlying the muscle ache is the ischemic (blood-supply) process from the inflammation (from infection) of the blood vessels that feed muscle. So when the muscle is ischemic, cells are start to produce more acids (lack of energy to get rid off them) and these are a good trigger for the nerve that are submerged in the muscles of your legs, backs and everywhere. SO finally, you get pain. When infection is clear and the vascular inflammation is subsided, blood flows through every muscles better and then you don't have pain anymore.

Don't let muscle soreness get the best of you. Analyze your situation. Making a few changes can make a difference in the way your muscles recover. Faster recovery will allow for better daily performance, avoiding those days of "I can't move" misery!

Have a GREAT week!

Rachel Zimmerman,

Certified Personal Trainer and Life Coach


Wife, Mother, and Friend

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