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How to make sore muscles your friend

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Sore muscles

If you have ever picked up a dumbbell, taken a fitness class or run a 5K, you have probably been the recipient of sore muscles.

Just about every single person who has ever exercised has experienced sore muscles. This is not an exclusive club. The technical name for this is DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness. It happens to every person who pursues activity and fitness, from people who work in the yard to weekend warriors. In the fitness world, it is even used for bragging rights.    

DOMs can happen anywhere from 12-48 hours after a workout. In my life, it is practically a weekly occurrence.

DOMS happens to any exerciser, young or old, who does an exercise their body is not used to. Typically, it occurs when weight-lifting, but can also occur in cardio exercises or even yoga.

In weight-lifting, DOMS is usually a result of the last phase of a two-part exercise. For example: A bicep curl has two parts, the lifting part and the lowering part. The lifting up is the concentric phase (muscle shortening), and the lowering part is the eccentric phase (muscle lengthening).

When you lift weights or challenge a muscle beyond what it is used to, small micro trauma occurs in that muscle. The soreness you feel is because of that tissue injury.

The rebuilding after this tiny trauma is what causes you to get stronger. The body starts to go through an adaptation process. Then, in order for greater adaptations to occur, you must step up your game to keep challenging that muscle.

What can you do to alleviate the soreness? There are many different ideas on what helps.

• If you are a professional athlete, you may have access to a cryotherapy chamber, but for us regular folks you can ice down the affected area or use heat therapy.

• An Epsom salt bath may also do the trick.

• Be sure and get rest and take an anti-inflammatory medicine, and in time the soreness will dissipate.

• Take at least 48 hours off from the same exercise that made you so sore to begin with. You can still exercise, but choose a different modality like swimming, biking or yoga.

• Be sure and warm up properly and keep working on your flexibility.

Remember that excessive swelling or pain is not normal. There is a little known condition called “rhabdomyolysis” that can happen with intense exercises such as CrossFit, spinning and distance running.

There are other ways to get this condition, such as crush injuries, drug abuse or severe dehydration. In the fitness arena, it can be caused by extreme training or exertion that causes the death of a muscle, which then releases certain enzymes into the bloodstream that can lead to kidney damage.

One of the symptoms is brownish urine. Other symptoms are lethargy and weakness. This is rare, but just a note that we should always listen to our bodies. Use common sense, keep hydrated and slowly build up your exercise plan.

It is normal to have a little muscle soreness if you are always changing up your routine and surprising your body. This is how you keep from getting in an exercise hole.

Don’t let fear of soreness prevent you from gaining strength and upping your goals. Soreness and strength gains don’t necessarily have to go together. Keep striving to be stronger. It does pay off.

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.