Thursday, April 24, 2008

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

I am not new to strength training. For a year before I started running, I worked out with a trainer doing a combination of weight lifting and plyometric moves that regularly brought my legs, shoulders and arms, chest and back, and abdominal muscles to failure. I can recall vividly the times I experienced delayed onset muscle soreness, and it was always after I tweaked my routine with a new exercise--the first day of plyometrics, changing machines for calf raises and waking the next few mornings with fiery calves, and my first "boy" push-ups and subsequent difficulty shampooing my hair.

When I began running about a year ago, I gradually cut back on my strength training. First, I cut out leg days. I reasoned that the running would be enough for the major muscle groups in my legs. Then, I combined my separate shoulders/arms and chest/back days into one big upper body day. A long vacation and a new job conspired to make it increasingly difficult to get to the gym just to move around some heavy things. If I was going to find the time to exercise, it would be "real exercise" that burned lots of calories and made me sweat. Running was better than strength training because I could relax and release stress, and I didn't need to think about how much weight, how many sets, or counting repetitions. At some point, I exchanged weights for yoga--it provided extra relaxation and forced me to stretch. But the yoga class moved to an earlier time, and I could no longer make the class after work. I stopped strength training entirely. For months. I forgot all about muscle soreness.

Enter Tom Holland and The Marathon Method. He gently reminded me that strength training exists, and that I should do a full body session twice a week with an extra session of core work after my long run on Saturday. Easy enough, I thought. I even allowed myself to start with the beginner program, which only requires dumbbells for bent over rows and otherwise uses your body weight for resistance. Push-ups, bent over rows, squats, front lunges, crunches, planks, and supermans. I just ran a half marathon. This should be a piece of cake.

And on Tuesday morning, when I did these basic exercises, it did seem easy. Perhaps I could not do quite so many push-ups as I remembered. And maybe I was a little wobbly in my plank position and with my lunges. But I knew I would be back in the strength training saddle again in no time. That is, until Wednesday, when I woke up with screaming quads, tight glutes, and I found it surprisingly difficult to brush my teeth. I stretched. I drank water. I tried not to hobble. I went for a slow run and stretched again. Drank more water. Again tried not to hobble.

I eased into bed last night, a bit ashamed that my itty bitty strength training session had caused me more pain than training for and running my first half marathon. I thought that surely I would feel better when I woke up this morning. This foreign feeling, this muscle soreness--it must be some kind of fluke. I bet myself that I would feel just fine and complete my second scheduled strength training session this morning. Nope. My quads are still screaming and my glutes are still tight. (It was, thankfully, a bit easier to brush my teeth.) So, I reduced my strength training session to mere core work this morning.

I know, with time, this soreness will pass. For now, I'm still stretching, still drinking water, still trying not to hobble.

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