Why are my muscles sore after I exercise?

I remember the first time I went for a run. I was in my 20s and living with my grandmother. We lived together for two years while I was in college. I apologize for digressing, but writing that sentence suddenly made me feel very nostalgic. I enjoyed living with my grandmother. I wish I could turn back the clock for a minute or two and tell her that. Her name was Leona, but we called her Grammie. My middle name is for her: Diane Lee.

Anyway, one afternoon we were sitting together on her sun porch. She was probably reading the paper and I was lost in Salem’s Lot. Suddenly, I declared that I was going to start running. Don’t ask me why — it had nothing to do with the book, just a thought that crossed my mind and I made a grab for it.

I put on my sneakers and off I went. Sped around the block. No warm up, no cool down. The next couple of days I could hardly walk my muscles were so sore. “You damn fool,” a friend said to me. “Don’t you know you have to ease into running, not just take off.”

A lesson learned the hard way! Why do our muscles get sore after a workout? I may be older and so much wiser now, but I don’t know the answer, so I asked Andy, my faithful coach. He told me why and also shared a tip about foam rolling.

After a workout, you maybe develop a little soreness because as you work your muscles, you’re causing microtrauma within the tissue. Once your body repairs that microtrauma, the soreness should go away.

It can last up to three days depending on the intensity of your workout, But ideally, the soreness should be gone in a day, at the most. If you feel pain in the joint, however, you might want to see a doctor, especially if it persists for an extended period of time.

One way to deal with sore muscles is to use a foam roller. It can be painful sometimes, but foam rolling should help break up some of the minor scar tissue and adhesions that develop from a workout. It also helps promote blood flow to that area.

NYC

A heating pad also helps. My friend Anne and I just got back from a few days in NYC, where we walked and walked and walked. It was great exercise and what a fun time of the year to visit the city. My legs were a bit sore when we returned, though. A combination of yoga stretches and the heating pad worked wonders.

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.