SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Exercise soreness normal, can be mitigated

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Have you ever rolled over in the morning to shut off your alarm and felt muscle soreness or stiffness throughout your body, only to remember you worked out the previous day?

Whether you are just starting out, increasing the intensity, or changing your routine, this soreness or stiffness is most likely delayed onset muscle soreness.

This muscle soreness typically begins to develop about 12-24 hours after exercise, but the greatest pain might not develop until 24-72 hours after exercise and usually subsides within three to seven days.

If you have been exercising for a while, you have probably experienced this at least once; if you are new to exercise you may be wondering what this muscle pain is, how it happens and if it can be prevented.

Soreness is a natural response to what the body perceives as an unusual exertion. It is part of the process of building stronger muscles.

When muscles are worked, there is microscopic damage to the muscle fibers that are being used. Soreness seems to occur as a side effect of the repair process.

Any movement that is new to your body can lead to soreness, but eccentric muscle contractions (when a muscle lengthens while force is applied) seem to cause the most muscle soreness. Some examples of eccentric muscle contractions include running downhill when the quadriceps muscle repeatedly lengthens to break yourself against gravity, the lowering/downward phase of a bicep curl, squat or push up.

After starting a new exercise routine, you may experience some soreness. But as you continue with this routine, soreness should not recur unless you increase intensity or switch up the routine.

After initiation to a specific workout, muscles can quickly adapt to that exercise intensity. To reduce the severity of sore muscles slowly start an exercise program and then gradually make changes to it.

When increasing your distance, intensity, time or speed try to follow the 10 percent rule: You should not increase by more than 10 percent each week.

An example of this is if you are running 10 miles per week and want to increase your mileage, you would only add one mile the next week. In the beginning 10 percent might be too much of an increase, just be sure to listen to what your body as you make changes.

As you start an exercise program and make changes, the key is to slowly add new exercises to it and not just jump into higher intensity workout.

Your workout will get to the same level, but hopefully with a little less soreness.

Valerie Rankin has been working in the fitness industry since 1998. She has a bachelor's degree in health education and fitness promotion and is the group exercise director at the YMCA where she manages and instructs fitness classes.

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