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My muscles dont look like this - maybe yours do?

My muscles don't look like this - maybe yours do?

I have some personal good news and bad news to share with all you readers out there. First, the good news – we won our first rugby game of the season 🙂 Go Columbia Women’s Rugby!!! Now the bad news – my neck and upper back are super sore. I’m okay if I look straight ahead, but if I try to look anywhere else, I have to turn my whole body because it hurts to twist my neck. Before I continue though, for the sake of total honesty, I need to make a bit of a disclaimer. Mentally, I really, really, like being sore – it means I’ve done something and worked new muscles that aren’t used to being worked. However, that does not mean that, physically, I don’t want to do whatever I can to make my muscles feel better ASAP.

Given my personal situation, I thought it would be an opportune time to learn a little bit more about why muscles get sore, and what it means for my workout. What kind of sore is good and what kind is bad? Also, once I am sore, what exactly can I do about it?
Here’s what I found out about muscle soreness: According to an article on webmd.com, called “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness,” scientists now believe that muscle soreness pain happens when, during exercise, microscopic tears occur in the muscle fiber. That, and the accompanying inflammation, cause the pain. Furthermore, there is no reason to be worried. The article quotes Carol Torgan, an exercise physiologist who says that the pains are “simply indicators that muscles are adapting to your fitness regimen.” Well, that sounds positive. If muscles are adapting to my fitness regimen, that means they are working hard, and hopefully I won’t be sore once they get used to the exercises I am doing. Maybe that means I need to play a rugby game more than once a week and I won’t get sore after. Then again, maybe that’s not so realistic – there’s a reason NFL football games are only once a week. (For those of you who don’t know, rugby is a full contact, no pads, sport – youtube it if you’re curious or if you just want to see something awesome.)
Okay, great – so soreness is a good thing, not a bad thing, just as I expected. Still, what can I do about it sitting here now, when I don’t feel like being in pain? Well, the article has a few suggestions. One of my favorite is the suggestion to “try some light exercise, such as walking or swimming.” That quote makes me feel smart because I have totally told people to try swimming in the past. When I’m sore, going in the pool really helps, because it lets you use the muscle without straining it too much, and without really noticing what you’re doing to it. Water is your friend – smooth and inviting. Another suggestion I like is having a cool down phase of about ten minutes at the end of your exercise. This means I can take ten-ish minutes off my cardio and cool down, and it still counts as part of my workout. Not only that, but it ADDS something GOOD to my workout!
Other suggestions from the article include applying heat to the area, or getting a massage. I’ve never had a massage – but maybe I should look into trying that out. I’ve heard lovely things about them.
In conclusion, it sounds like a little soreness is a good thing, and you shouldn’t worry too much. First, it means your muscles are being worked in a new and productive way. Second, there are things you can do to make yourself feel better, and make working out an even more positive experience. Just one word of caution – make sure you pay attention and notice when your muscles have gone past regular soreness and are reaching injury territory. David Draper, a sports medicine and athletic training professor says, “If soreness prevents you from performing daily activities associated with living and work, then that is too much soreness.”

Happy exercising! And if you do happen to get sore the day after, look at it as a positive thing, not something negative, and smile a little through the pain 🙂

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