When you do it right, exercise produces positive changes in your body such as a healthy body weight, decreased risk of disease and improved quality of life. But if your'e doing it wrong, it can lead to muscle soreness, fatigue and even injury. If you are still sore after consistently exercising for a month, you need to change your routine and take steps to recover and prevent this from continuing.
Overtraining and Recovery
Muscle soreness is normal after intense exercise, or by changing up your routine. It is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. When you rest, these tears heal and the muscle becomes stronger. Chronic muscle soreness that does not clear up within a couple of days is a sign of overtraining. You are doing too much, too often with little time for recovery. Since it has only been about four weeks, take three to five days completely off from exercise and you should feel better, according to Mark Jenkins, MD, writing for Rice University. But that's just the first step.
Training Volume and Intensity
Ease back into your workouts. Start by training every other day so you are giving your body time to heal. If you want to increase to daily workouts, do it slowly over a few weeks time. Leave at least one full day off each week to prevent overtraining. Also, reduce the number of sets and reps you perform. Start with just one or two sets of eight to 12 reps for resistance exercise, and use a moderate weight. During cardio sessions, only do 20 to 30 minutes at a moderate to vigorous intensity.
Nutrition and Hydration
What you eat after you work out will help your muscles recover. Your muscles are made of protein, so that is essential. But carbohydrate is energy and your body needs it to repair itself. Within 30 to 45 minutes of the end of a workout, consume a small meal or snack that contains carbs and protein. One popular choice is chocolate milk. The protein is readily digestible and the chocolate provides carbs that can be absorbed quickly by your body. Also, drink those fluids. Your body is mostly made up of water, and often 64 ounces a day is not enough. The American Council on Exercise advises that men and women consume 125 and 91 ounces of fluids, respectively, every day. When exercising you need to increase that amount to prevent dehydration.
Importance of Stretching
Many people skip this essential component of an exercise program. Stretching literally helps lengthen muscle fibers that you just finished contracting. It can relieve soreness, and help prevent it. Over time it will also help you maintain optimal range of motion throughout your body. Stretch at least two or three times each week. Do one stretch for every major muscle group and hold it for 15 to 30 seconds. Stretch gently to avoid cramping and get the most benefit.
- Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook; Nancy Clark, MS, RD
- American Council on Exercise: What Causes Muscle Soreness and How Is It Best Relieved?
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association: Preventing Muscle Soreness
- Rice University: Overtraining Syndrome
- American Council on Exercise: Healthy Hydration
Bethany Kochan began writing professionally in 2010. She has worked in fitness as a group instructor, personal trainer and fitness specialist since 1998. Kochan graduated in 2000 from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist and certified YogaFit instructor.