No one can want it for you. You want it, you gotta get it. Whatever “it” you’re chasing, if it’s anything of worth, it’s not going to be easy. That’s the hard truth of life wrapped up in a pretty package with a shiny red bow.
Now that we got the motivational portion of this blogging experience out of the way, let’s get a little scientifical for the remaining duration of our time together. So you wanna be faster, stronger, raise that badass quotient, elevate the levels epic proportions?
Well that involves pushing your body, putting stress at even the most microscopic cellular level. We forget about all the trillions of cells that make create every component of our being… That is until we can feel them. And feel them we do, especially all of us fitness sadomasochist , we feel then all too regularly and painfully.
But what’s really going down with our muscles the hours, the days, the weeks post workout? Why is it we are left broken and must strategize even menial daily tasks like stepping off a curb or going to the bathroom? Well class, get ready you’re about to be schooled in the wonderful world of muscles physiology, don’t worry this will be a remedial course.
1. Truth is, usually right after a workout you feel great, the endorphins are pumping, you have that post-WOD “I’m King of the Freakin’ Universe” high we all constantly chase. But this is a deceptive…
2. During exercise the contractions of our muscles cause cellular microtrauma in the membranes of our muscle fibers and connective tissue, each muscle fiber is considered it’s own individual cell. So while you were rampaging through each rep of your workout you were literally tearing your body to pieces on a very microscopic level (yes this is a good thing).
3. Scientist can actually measure how much damage is done during a workout by measuring blood levels of a muscle enzyme called CPK (Creatine phosphokinase, no not the amount California Pizza Kitchen you have consumed, don’t worry there isn’t a test for that yet).
4. But around 8+ hours later is when the muscle soreness and tightness starts to set in. Affectionately referred to as DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness.
5. By damaging the muscle fiber, it disrupts the delicate balance of the cell, there’s too much metabolic waste clogging up the joint, the cell (AKA muscle fiber) can no longer produce energy like it had prior to exercise.
6. With the damage done, you awesome immune system gets all up in the mix. Fluid begins to build up in the damaged cells in order to bring immune cells such as neutrophils and macrophages to the site of injury. If that’s not service I don’t know what is.
7. The fluid full of those combative immunity wonders, is what causes your muscles to swell and be stiff. Nothing in life is free… there is almost always some price to pay.
8. But unfortunately as these cells work so hard to clean up the damage, the waste is an excess of free radicals. Free radicals, those rowdy hooligans, are unleased into your body, and may cause further muscle damage, prolonging recovery time (not to mention speeding up the aging process those jerks!). Thankfully, because the healthy nutritional choices you have made, you have an influx of anti-oxidants from all those fruits and vegetables. The blueberries you ate for breakfast are getting in there and neutralizing those pesky free radicals.
9. As this healing cycle commences, muscle function, such as the ability to take up and store carbohydrates is compromised. Thus a lack of muscle energy until it heals. You’ll have about 1-3 days of diminished strength, and 7-14 days till the healing process is complete.
10. The soreness you feel is from what scientists now think that biochemical changes in the muscle may increase nerve sensitivity, leading to muscle pain. Usually for no more then 5 days (yes those would be a really long 5 days).
11. And no, muscle soreness is NOT related to lactic acid build up. Stop blaming poor lactic acid, it’s not their fault. But you can still blame it for their role in muscle fatigue… It’s not completely innocent.
12. Over time your muscles begin to adapt to the stress and what was hard is now less hard (I will never use the term easy in reference to CrossFit, there’s just hard and less hard). This comes from changes in motor unit activation (so that more fibers handle the weight), thickening of the muscle connective tissues, and of course bigger and stronger muscles. Hurray! A happy ending!