Sunday, August 5, 2007

Managing Muscle Soreness

As we build up our mileage and increase the distance and intensity of our track workouts, many of us experience sore muscles. This is not uncommon and is part of the process of gaining strength and endurance. However there are ways to decrease and treat the amount of muscle soreness. Read “Sore Muscles” in your notebook for a general idea of what is happening.

Here are some of the methods that are most effective:

The amount of muscle soreness you experience tomorrow will always be directly proportional to how far you work your muscles beyond what they are accustomed to today. The longer Saturday runs and the faster Tuesday runs are most likely to be followed by some muscle soreness unless you have been training consistently for several years. You may also find soreness is increased 2 days following a hard workout rather than the day after. This concept is known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

Start Slow, Warm Up, and add Dynamic Stretching:
Always precede any high-intensity running you do with easy jogging followed by dynamic stretching or flexibility drills (such as high knees and butt kicks). These precautions warm and lubricate the muscles, making the fibers less prone to tearing during the training. On Saturdays start slower than the pace you train. On Tuesdays always do a warm up slow jog followed by dynamic stretching before your work out.

Cool Down:
Circulation is the primary facilitator of the muscle repair process after intense exercise. Finishing workouts with low-intensity activity keeps circulation levels up without further damaging muscle fibers and thereby kick-starts the recovery process.

Stride Outs or Declines:
The most effective way to minimize muscle soreness is actually to cause it in small amounts. Doing so results in structural adaptations in the muscle that make it more resistant to future tearing. To stimulate these adaptations, do four to six 100-yard stride-outs or declines twice per week.

Easy Recovery Runs:
Muscle soreness also has a tendency to accumulate if the muscles are not given adequate opportunity to heal between hard workouts. So you should always schedule recovery workouts (short and easy) between your harder and longer training sessions. You may not feel like a run will do any good but a short easy run will aid in your recovery.

Cross Training:
Non impact cross training such as swimming or water running is another great way to aid recovery while promoting cardiovascular fitness. These workouts increase blood flow to promote healing, while at the same time eliminate further physiological breakdown to already sore muscles. This concept is know as "active recovery."

Refuel and Hydrate:
You should also consume protein immediately after your workouts. The faster you get protein into your body, the faster your body can go to work repairing muscle damage. Always consume plenty of carbohydrate, to restore energy, and fluids for hydration following workouts as well. The most convenient way to get all the nutrition your body needs for immediate post-run recovery is to simply drink a carbohydrate-protein sports drink (eg. Endurox). In one study, athletes who consumed such a drink after a hard workout exhibited 36% less muscle damage than a control group the next day.

Antioxidants can also reduce muscle soreness. Oxygen radicals are believed to play a role in the cellular damage that follows the rupture of muscle fibers during exercise. By consuming a diet that is high in antioxidant vitamins and enzymes you can limit this damage.

Time is the only true cure for muscle soreness. Certain treatments, however, can reduce the severity of the soreness you experience while time works its magic.

Icing is the best way to reduce inflammation and the associated soreness. Combining a cold treatment with compression of the sore muscle, for example with a neoprene sleeve, is even more effective than a standard ice massage. An ice bath is even better. My favorite recipe’ for an ice bath includes a hot beverage and sweatshirt, with just legs immersed!

Elevation is another tried-and-true treatment for inflammation. Simply sit with your legs propped above heart level for 30 minutes or more. Or simply put your butt up against a wall and raise your legs upon the wall for 10 – 15 minutes.

Self Massage:
The Stick is a great devise for enhancing circulation and stretching muscles.

Frequent stretching also increases circulation and speeds the return to full mobility. Always stretch a sore muscle very gently, and if it is extremely sore, do not stretch it at all. In such a case light activity is a better alternative.

Summary submitted by Chris Crowell
With many of these concepts taken from:
That Hammered FeelingSimple Steps to Soften Muscle Soreness
by Matt Fitzgerald