Question:

Is it normal to be stiff and achy after a hard workout?

Aches and Pains Can Come With the Territory

When you're involved in sports, whether competitively or recreationally, aches and pains are part of the game. Not that you have to hurt to work out, but anytime you push your body outside of its comfort zone--with higher mileage on your road bike, increased weight during your strength circuit, or added effort in the last set of your tennis match--you're bound to feel it. Sore, stiff muscles following a workout or training session are a sign of micro-tears in the fibers of the muscles themselves. These occur when muscles exert added force beyond what they are accustomed to. When these micro tears heal, usually within twenty-four to thirty-six hours, the fibers become stronger and more resilient, a sign of improved fitness. Muscle pain relief in this type of situation is actually achieved most effectively by working out again. The increased circulation in the tissue and alternating contracting and relaxing helps to flush out the muscle and alleviate soreness. Another way to get muscle pain relief is with slow, sustained stretching. Lengthening the muscle fibers gently as they heal from their breakdown can help them repair in a longer, stronger state. This, too, is a sign of improved fitness. So next time you're sore from working out, resist the urge to just do nothing. Get back out there and train again, and your muscles will feel much better.

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