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Health & Fitness

Why you're so sore after you work out

By Ron Kaspriske

If you're just getting back into working out or are trying a new routine or exercise, you might experience soreness or mild pain in the hours and days after you leave the gym. Believe it or not, that's usually a good thing. Unless you're in excruciating pain, or have swollen joints or bruised skin, that discomfort you're feeling is your body's way of telling you it's getting stronger.

the-loop-fitness-muscle-ache-260.jpgThere are two common types of soreness felt after working out. The first is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS for short. Scientists believe this occurs after repeatedly doing an exercise that lengthens the muscle beyond what it's accustomed to. This causes tiny tears in the muscle fiber that are quickly repaired by the body to prevent injury. The repair work is the soreness you feel. An example would be how the hip flexors are stretched when doing a lunge. If you haven't done lunges in a long time, you'll likely feel soreness in your hips and your glute (butt) muscles for a few days.

The other type of "good" muscle damage is known as acute muscle soreness. As you might guess, you'll feel this type of discomfort either during an exercise or immediately after it, but it soon goes away as the muscle is relaxed. There are several reasons you might feel AMS including an influx of the chemical hydron into the muscle, a buildup of lactic acid, or a shifting of fluid that can cause swelling.

Neither DOMS or AMS is a whole lot of fun, but there are two positives to dwell on if you suffer from either: 1. In the case of AMS, it's your body's way of saying you're pushing a little too hard and should throttle it back a little. I know a lot of you out there love CrossFit. But keep in mind it takes a well-conditioned body to perform CrossFit safely and effectively. So if you're hurting during the routine, it's time to stop. 2. In the case of DOMS, it's your body's way of telling you what muscles you were neglecting. It should be a source of pride for you to know that you're making progress with those muscles improving your overall stability and mobility. You're getting stronger!

In either case, rest, ice and anti-inflammatory drugs should help ease the discomfort. If you still feel pain beyond, say, four or five days, you might have torn or sprained a muscle or injured a joint. Go see a doctor. But for garden variety soreness, go with my advice and take a day or two off from working out, drink a lot of water, and every once in a while try to lengthen the muscle that feels sore with a long-hold stretch. This will increase blood flow to the region and you'll start to feel better. The good news is that the more you work out, the less this soreness occurs. So don't let it be an excuse to quit your new exercise routine before you really ever get started. Hang in there.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Photo by Getty Images)