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your look ● fitness Don’t be a Sore Loser Staying fit sometimes results in nagging muscle pain, but we have the methods to help alleviate your discomfort W hether you work out lifting heavy weights or running a couple of miles through a nearby park each morning, you’ve probably woken up the next day (or even two days later) feeling as if you’d been hit by a Mack Truck. Nobody likes to be sore, and many people who have recently started an exercise routine may be somewhat discouraged by the nagging aches and pains that come from a workout. Excessive soreness after a workout is generally an indi- cation that you either increased volume or intensity far too quickly, or that you did not recover properly. Vigorous ex- ercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibers, leading to an im- mune reaction—inflammation—as the body gets to work repairing the injured cells. Additionally, lactic acid can build up in your muscle cells, which is a normal byproduct of muscle metabolism. Lactic acid hinders muscle contraction and irritates mus- cles, causing discomfort and soreness. Muscle soreness as- sociated with exercise is known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. Though soreness is totally natural and cannot be entirely eliminated, it can be controlled. With the following preparation and recovery methods, you can ensure minimal levels of post-workout pain, allow your body to recover more quickly, and gain better fitness from your workouts. YOGA Stretching your muscles and joints helps to prevent mus- cle soreness and promote faster recovery between workouts. Yoga loosens tight muscles, which tend to trap lactic acid, the waste product that accumulates in the muscle cells dur- ing intense exercise sessions. A buildup of lactic acid in the muscle cells can hinder muscle contraction, and yoga can aid in releasing that buildup into the bloodstream. Adding a brief 10-minute warmup and 10-minute cool down rou- tine of yoga prior to and post workout will significantly cut down on muscle soreness. 62 PAGEANTRY HOT-COLD CONTRAST SHOWERS It’s simple, it’s effective, and it doesn’t take any extra time out of your day to get it done. Just take a 5 minute shower, and alternate between 20 seconds of cold water and 20 seconds of hot water. This concept is nothing new. There is research that shows the Romans, Greeks, and An- cient Chinese were onto this little secret waaaay back in the day, but they didn’t have the easy access to modern tech- nology and showers like we do today. The idea is that you want to get the blood flowing with warm water, since the warm temperatures will open the blood vessels and flush your muscles with blood. Warm water has been shown to decrease swelling and inflamma- tion, as well as increase circulation. Then switch to cold, which will drive the blood inward to warm and protect the internal organs from the cold. Return back to warm to get the blood going again, etc. This practice is believed to reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) by reducing the amount of inflam- mation in your muscles and lactate in your blood. It goes beyond training benefits. Contrast showers are also capable of detoxing the body and making your organs work better due to the blood that gets forced into them from the cold. Ultimately, this contraction and dilation will help the body get rid of toxins, too.