In a round about way, one of the BIG questions I get asked a lot is:
“Why does the next day aches and pains associated with exercise, seem to get worse and last longer, as you get older?”
And let’s talk about it in the context of what someone is likely to be feeling right now, having just ran the Great North Run.
And, you can take what I’m about to say on board whether you like to play golf, bowls, like to walk or cycle, because the phenomenon of suffering post exercise soreness happens no matter what you love to do.
And you know what? Even a day spent at the beach or in the countryside can leave you feeling just as sore the next day, so pays to know a little bit about it.
So, why does next day soreness happen?
Well, let’s say you’re aged 50 and if that’s the case, every day that you wake up now your body is a little stiffer and tighter and leaves you a little smaller, too.
Nothing that you’ll ever notice, but is a natural consequence of the (very privileged) process of growing older, your muscles are getting tighter to the point that they are nearly always on a full stretch.
Yes, long gone are the days when your muscles where elastic and flexible and you could stretch and move around free from any restrictions or tightness.
Think of it like this: if you kept on pulling an elastic band, it would stretch with you – at first. But then, what would happen is the elastic band would begin to fray. And when it begins to fray, it’s just become weaker. And it’s not going to be long before the band snaps.
Now, when you first get going with any type of activity – be it running, gardening or even starting off a day doing some DIY, these muscles in your body DO NOT want to be moved.
They’re ever so tight and unless you spend 20 minutes or so warming them up, then you’re essentially pulling the elastic band too tight and these muscles will fray too.
And then what happens is this: because the muscles begin to fray, your body has to repair it. And it does that by putting down a type of “glue” (which is called scar tissue). And it’s this glue which makes you feel even MORE stiffer and tighter the next day.
So, when you wake up the next day after a full day of activity, you feel so “stiff” because of these muscles having been damaged by being pulled and stretched further than they should, for too long.
And if you did something like the GNR, they’ve been pulled stretched and over worked for about three hours non stop – without really being ready for it.
And that’s why so many people who have done the GNR, will still be struggling to get down the stairs this morning because they’re so stiff and tight, even three or four days post race.
So, to stop always feeling like this, here are a couple of quick tips:
Stretch regularly. Mornings in the shower when the water is warm is an easy time to do it and sets up for the day nicely.
And if you wanted to be really diligent and health conscious, sitting in an ice bath at the end of a physical day is the best way to stop your body from taking two days to recover from a day spent in the garden.