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February 21, 2012
The Key to Soreness
Soreness has become a necessary part of an athlete’s journey. So the challenge becomes managing this consequence of strenuous activity. Far too often, the prevailing notion is to rest during soreness and injury, which can actually make the problem worse. The reality is that we have only had the option of rest over the last few decades. Escaping a predator, farming the land with your family, and walking to the next town made soreness from the previous day irrelevant. Thankfully, our bodies were actually designed to be more active when we are sore; it’s called the repeated bout effect. 
The repeated bout effect is a protective adaptation that describes how further exercise after the original activity damage will not delay the recovery rate. Soreness will not layer on top of previous soreness. And by damage, we are referring to delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which generally peaks 48 hours after intense or new exercise (see Sparta Point 4/13/11). From an athlete’s perspective, the biggest concern of DOMS is its negative effects on stretch shortening cycle (SSC) performance like running and jumping (see Sparta Point 1/10/12). Researchers out of the Tokyo Institute of Technology examined the effects of further activity on soreness and SSC performance, particularly focusing on its role of pain reduction, through a process known as exercise induced analgesia (EIA). The mechanisms behind EIA are not certain, but likely involve a combination of factors 1. Endorphins that influence brain activity to decrease pain perception 2. Increased temperature and circulation to inhibit the activity of pain transmitters 3. Psychological factors, such as intense concentration on the exercise at hand The August 2010 study found that EIA helps maintain dynamic performance and movement due to the countering of peripheral fatigue, referring to the cell membrane and coupling disruptions that play a role in DOMS (see Sparta Point 11/30/11). However, there is a catch. EIA must induce some fatigue to alleviate soreness, which makes sense because sufficient intensity and duration is necessary to produce an analgesic effect. The researchers used 70% of maximal effort in this study to produce the positive effects on pain reduction. At Sparta, our athletes with significant soreness and upcoming competition use non-impact movements like the VersaPulley to maintain explosiveness (see Sparta Point 10/27/11). However, athletes with only 2-3 practices a week, train through that soreness, knowing that the analgesic effects of exercise are far more effective and efficient than ibuprofen and ice baths, which have both shown to be detrimental to the healing process (See Sparta Point 3/3/10).
A professional baseball player using the VersaPulley
Your window to play sports is short, so look at soreness as the reason to train again soon, it will be the healthiest pain reliever you have ever had.
February 21, 2012
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6 thoughts on “The Key to Soreness”

  1. Good post Phil!

    Would you say this programming modifications (nonimpact movements based on soreness and practice schedule) applies to only your professional athletes or do you extend this to every single athlete who trains at Sparta from high school on up?

    Keep up the good work!

    All the best,

  2. so that explains why an easy training day is better than a day off from training, as track coaches have been saying for decades.

  3. How is ice after a meniscus tear? I would assume ice is always detrimental to the healing process, which is why I’ve always abstained despite constant pressure to ice everything from sprained ankles to tendonopathy. Isn’t pain and swelling part of the body healing itself? Why would I want to retard that? Seems more like folks needing to have a solution for cases when there is no solution.

    Anyway, about the meniscus tear. I read this in an article the other day:

    “After taking off from California, Lin prepared ice packs for his right knee and took a rest, the cabin service director said, adding Lin is a very well-mannered and humble person. “


    Should he be icing his knees? If not, better get him on the phone, stat. 🙂

  4. Ice is never good, and yes to all your ?x.

    Jeremy is the most competitive athlete I have ever met. Yet, like us all, our best quality can be our biggest struggle, so it can be awhile before he accepts the science

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