So I’m writing this article right now, and because I have decided to restart my exercise routine in advance of the holiday season, I am essentially one big muscle ache, from my head to my toes. This is day 3 of exercising (out of 5 total days), and I know it is going to get better, and I know it is good for me, but for real, this hurts. so. much. How do I know all of this? Well, mostly personal experience, which in my case has consisted of four sprint triathlons, a few 5K runs, and one ill-fated attempt at a 10K. But despite all of that, the fatigue and the aches right now are so bad. What is an out-of-shape, approaching middle aged, exerciser supposed to do?
I started researching this on my favorite research tool, Dr. Google, and the first website that I found told me that sore muscles “usually just means that you pushed yourself too hard (thanks, Captain Obvious) or that you’re doing new exercises (same response).” This website claims to provide all kinds of information for how to get a beach body, though (www.beachbodyondemand.com), and to be honest, that may not be the goal I’m looking for. I’m mostly looking to stop feeling tired and old (and OK, fine, also to lose anywhere from 5-25 pounds, depending on my level of ambition on any particular day).
The website also informed me that the soreness I felt was a result of micro-tears in the muscles, and that I could help that feeling with 8 different things/activities, including, in no particular order: (a) buying and consuming their own special protein powder; (b) stretching, to lengthen the muscles that are contracted during exercise; and (c) using a foam roller (which I have, but I have not been able to use successfully without falling flat on my face).
*Just an FYI on the stretching: peer-reviewed studies (the gold standard of science research) on static stretching (holding one position) seem to show no significant benefit. Dynamic stretching on the other hand (i.e. holding and releasing a position repeatedly), however, did provide some relief.
WebMD on the same question of soreness after exercise headlines their page by saying, “Sore Muscles? Don’t Stop Exercising” (https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/sore-muscles-dont-stop-exercising#1), and goes on to explain why sore muscles happen, that they are normal, and that general treatment options include heat, stretching, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines. Don’t worry, Web MD doctor. I won’t stop exercising. My alarm is set for 4:45 am tomorrow, with plans to do some nice, calm, cross-training swimming. Happy exercising, scientists!