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Why Am I Sore?: Understanding Why You Are Sore After Sessions

By: Nazirah M. Jones, MS., CPT-NASM

Have you ever wondered why you feel sore after a workout or a physically demanding activity? Soreness, also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is a common experience for many individuals. In this fun and informative blog post, we'll explore the reasons behind post-session soreness, helping you gain a better understanding of your body's response to exercise. So, let's dive in and uncover the mysteries behind why you feel sore!

  1. The Microscopic Tear Mystery: One of the main culprits behind post-session soreness is microscopic muscle fiber tears. When you engage in strenuous physical activity, especially if you're trying something new or pushing your limits, your muscles experience small tears in the muscle fibers. These tears lead to inflammation, triggering the familiar soreness you feel the following day or two.

  2. The Lactic Acid Puzzle: Many people believe that lactic acid is the sole cause of muscle soreness. However, recent research suggests that lactic acid buildup during exercise isn't directly responsible for soreness. Lactic acid is a byproduct of anaerobic exercise and is quickly metabolized by the body. So while it may cause temporary discomfort during your workout, it doesn't play a significant role in post-session soreness.

  3. The Inflammation Enigma: Inflammation is a natural response of the body to tissue damage. When microscopic tears occur in your muscles, your immune system activates and releases chemicals that promote inflammation. This inflammation, while crucial for the healing process, can also lead to soreness. Understanding this process can help you appreciate your body's incredible ability to repair and grow stronger.

  4. The Eccentric Exercise Riddle: Ever noticed that certain exercises make you more sore than others? Eccentric exercises, which involve the lengthening of muscles under tension, are notorious for causing soreness. Activities like downhill running, eccentric squats, or lowering weights slowly are examples of exercises that target muscles in their lengthening phase. These exercises induce more muscle fiber damage, resulting in increased soreness.

  5. The Overload Paradox: While soreness can be a sign of a productive workout, it's important to find a balance. Overloading your muscles with excessive intensity or volume without proper recovery can lead to excessive soreness, increased risk of injury, and hinder your progress. Understanding the concept of progressive overload and allowing sufficient rest and recovery is crucial for preventing excessive soreness.

Post-session soreness is a natural response of your body to physical exertion and muscle fiber damage. The microscopic tears, inflammation, eccentric exercises, and the concept of overload all contribute to the sensation of soreness. By understanding the underlying mechanisms and the importance of proper recovery, you can better navigate your fitness journey and make informed decisions to prevent excessive soreness. So, embrace the soreness as a reminder of your hard work and allow your body the time it needs to repair and come back stronger.


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