You took a spin class yesterday and woke up feeling like you were hit by a freight train. There's no doubt that indoor cycling can be a difficult workout, and if you're not accustomed to it, your muscles may feel incredibly sore for a period of time. But before you throw in the towel on these effective workouts, consider some of the ways you can prevent -- or at least minimize -- soreness and what you can do when it strikes.
Causes of Muscle Soreness
There are two types of muscle soreness. The first is pain you feel during or immediately after an activity. This is the burning sensation you feel your in muscles when performing an activity or working at an intensity level you're not accustomed to, but it goes away quickly after you stop exercising. The other type is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, which develops in the 24 to 48 hours following exercise. DOMS is caused by microscopic tears in muscle fibers and connective tissues and is a normal reaction to new activities and increased intensities. The breaking down of muscle fibers is part of your body's normal remodeling process, which produces increases in muscular strength and endurance.
Prevention and Relief
You should expect a certain amount of soreness when you begin a new exercise. However, you can minimize extreme soreness by warming up, slowly increasing workout intensity and drinking an adequate amount of water. According to fitness and nutrition experts Dwayne Jackson and Jim Stoppani, taking 5 grams of glutamine before a workout produces bicarbonate, which helps buffer rising acidity levels in the muscles during a workout. This acidity contributes to fatigue and soreness. What if you're already in pain? The common treatments for DOMS are massage, cryotherapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
Good versus Bad Pain
If muscle pain is par for the course when you're new to indoor cycling, how do you determine the difference between good and bad pain? The burning of working muscles is different from the sharp pain of pulled or torn muscles. The pain you experience during exercise should be short-lived, but the pain of an injury is lasting and can be accompanied by inflammation. Muscles that are worked too hard can become swollen and sore to the touch. If you have muscle pain that persists more than 72 hours after exercise, you may need to see a doctor to determine if you have an injury.
Precaution and Tips
Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. If you're new to indoor cycling, ask the instructor to show you how to set up your bike to make sure your body is properly aligned on the bike. Improper mechanics can exacerbate soreness and lead to joint and soft tissue injuries. With indoor cycling, you get to choose how hard you work by adjusting your resistance and ride positions. Work at your own level and reduce your intensity when you need to. You'll gradually get stronger and become a superstar, but if you try to kick butt too soon, your muscles will pay the price.
- American Council on Exercise: What Causes Muscle Soreness and How is it Best Relieved?
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: Are You Ready for Indoor Cycling?
- Indoor Cycling Association: On Suffering and Pain
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Johns Hopkins Sports Medicine Patient Guide to “Good Pain” and ”Bad Pain” for Athletes
- Muscle & Fitness: Before and After
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.