This past spring, Val and I began to engage in some serious weekly cross-training. It was actually a sport that neither of us had played in years. I wouldn’t really call it the ideal cross-training for distance running, but playing soccer every Sunday got us both moving and very engaged in the sport we have been missing for quite a while. But while our hearts may have missed soccer, our bodies weren’t quite as pleased to have the sport back.
For the two days after our return to the pitch, we were out of commission. Our bodies ached all over and we couldn’t even lift our knees above our waist (think high-knees position). Feeling this way after a quick 3 miler yesterday—without stretching—and then some hiking afterward reminded me how I felt the next two days after that first Sunday of soccer.
You may wonder at times how you can be in such great fitness shape and still be so sore after doing some cross-training or participating in a new exercise or sport. Well that is exactly why you are so sore. When you do something that is new, it is very likely that you are engaging different muscles. These are muscles that you don’t really engage much when you perform your regular activity. For example, I don’t typically run backwards, sideways (unless I’m doing drills and dynamic stretching), or kick a ball when I run so if you are exerting different muscles then you are inviting soreness the next day, or few days as is more likely.
Preventing DOMS after a hard summer run.
The day-after feeling of soreness is referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS and you. will. suffer. Unless of course you do what I failed to do after that fateful Sunday to reduce the chances of your muscles’ next-day stiffness…Didn’t mea to get so dramatic there! So how do you do save your body from DOMS? Everything that I am about to list below can help mitigate the soreness. I recommend you take action with some of these steps after incorporating a new exercise (including a return to a sport after a long hiatus) or participating in a new sport even if it’s just at the recreational, just-for-fun level.
This can be a light jog, a light run, or maybe even a brisk walk. I think 5-15 minutes should be enough to at least combat the stiffness you’ll feel the next day if you don’t cool-down.
You don’t want to overstretch. When you use new muscles, you are already stretching them. Only light stretching is necessary and I advise you do this after your light 5-15 minute cool-down. In my opinion and experience, dynamic stretching works best before a workout, but static stretching after a workout is not bad. (What is dynamic or static stretching? Google these terms or stay tuned for a future post!)
Dynamic stretching before mile repeats…and advertising RUNA of course.
Don’t sit around for the rest of the day
Remaining horizontal for the hours after your workout is surely going to lead you to feel sore and stiff the following day even if you did your cool-down and light ing immediately after the activity. You don’t have to exercise again and overdo it, but just staying upright and moving (walking, gardening, running errands, cleaning the house) will help immensely.
–Run a bath (such an odd saying) with warm or very warm water
This is going to relax and loosen your muscles and prime them for some light stretching if you want. You could even massage your legs and arms while you are laying in the tub, but if you just choose to relax with some music instead…who could blame you?
Still feeling sore the next day? This is very possible, but don’t use this as a reason to lounge around all day. Extra movement or even a light run, some cycling, or swimming will do wonders for reducing stiffness and speeding up your recovery process. Val and I learned this the hard way. We didn’t do any kind of exercise the day after that first day of soccer, and were even more sore and stiff two days later. I decided to go for a light 1 mile jog and after the first half-mile my whole body felt 100x better!
So back to this weekend: I ran a quick 5k yesterday (short speedy-run after Sunday’s quick 16 miler) and didn’t stretch. Bad, Will. But what helped was that Val and I joined our neighbors for a hiking trip, which really worked to get my muscles stretched. Had I not had plans to leave for hiking not 5 minutes after my return from my run, I would have definitely stretched and jumped in hot shower to relax my muscles.
How do you feel about stretching? When you complete a long and/or hard workout, do you just want to sit around? How do you feel the next day? Let’s talk in the comments about anything that you thought about while reading this post.