Posted by Erin on February 3, 2015
New Year's resolutions have been in full swing for a month now. Many people resolve to hit the gym after a break over the holidays, jumping right back in to rigorous physical activity after some time off. This can lead to some seriously sore muscles 24 to 48 hours after a tough workout. Gymnasts, especially those in team programs, can feel this soreness after a return to workout.
What is this pain? Is it a good sign, or did something go wrong? Should this be expected after every practice or workout?
What is this soreness?
The pain that you - or your gymnast - is feeling is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: this is a fancy way of saying that the soreness appears 24-72 hours after exercise. This is the result of work that muscles are not typically used to. If the intensity, duration, or type of exercise has changed, you might be looking at sore muscles over the next few days. The extra workload, or new movement, causes inflammation or swelling, which in turn causes pain. This pain is usually present in the day or two after the exercise - if pain is present during the exercise, then it is either too intense or is being performed incorrectly and should be stopped immediately.
What should be done about it?
Soreness from activity is healed over time. However, there are steps you can take to lessen muscle soreness.
Ice soon after the exercise can decrease inflammation, while heat can ease present soreness and increase circulation.
Massage and stretching are perhaps the most underused remedies, but can have effective results. Continued exercise should not be avoided due to soreness, as it can actually increase circulation and remedy soreness.
Is this soreness a bad thing?
Pain typically means something in your body is wrong. However, in this case, soreness signifies that the body is healing, and making itself stronger. There's much debate on whether soreness is "good" or not. I know personally that I get sore after a really good workout - it definitely makes me feel that I've been using certain muscle groups more than normal, and that I'll be stronger at the next workout!
Check out WebMD for more information and professional input on muscle soreness: