Meet lactic acid.
Once thought to be an “athlete’s foe” when working out, it’s actually a good sign. Your body basically takes the carbohydrates you consume, turns it into glycogen and then uses it for fuel.
Here’s what one New York Times’ article said about lactic acid:
“Lactic acid is actually a fuel, not a caustic waste product. Muscles make it deliberately, producing it from glucose, and they burn it to obtain energy. The reason trained athletes can perform so hard and so long is because their intense training causes their muscles to adapt so they more readily and efficiently absorb lactic acid.” -Full article here.
So, what to do about pesky lactic acid?
Check out my favorite solutions:
- Ice, Ice Baby. While you can certainly put ice on your muscles (be careful to wrap it in a wash cloth, pillow case or something to avoid freezing your skin), one of the best things to do is to find a freezing cold pool…and stand in it. As a competitive cross country runner, standing in a Whirlpool after a training run was both torturous and heavenly. Since temps are still pretty cold, find a pool and do what you can to get it up to your quads if you’re sore.
- Roll It. Rollers of all kinds are now completely en vogue. Once relegated to the physical therapist’s or chiropractor’s office, now everyone seems to have a roller of some sort. You can pick up foam rollers at most sporting goods stores and they vary in thickness and rigidity. Basically, you want to use your own body weight and push out that soreness (read: lactic acid build up). A subtitle to this one could be “Hurts So Good.” My new favorite roller for runners is The Stick, which I purchased at Sole Sports in Tempe.
- Cream It. I remember slathering on that icky cream stuff back in the day and I guess it sort of worked, but who knows what I was putting into my skin. I’m super happy now to have Ageless Pain Relief cream by Isagenix–it’s a miracle worker! Right after a run, if I have even the slightest ache, I put a tiny dollop on the hot spot, do a little rub and compress it with a wash cloth to feel that cooling/warming sensation on my joint. Here’s a little more about the product on AgelessPainRelief.com.
- Drink Up. To get that lactic acid moving out of your muscles, you need to flood your body with more liquids, especially water. Hydration is key here, so as soon as your activity is over, it’s important to refuel and rehydrate to minimize the after effects.
- Get Out There. It may seem counter-intuitive, but one key way to make the aches and pains go away is to get out there and work out or run again. Moving your muscles will warm them up, stimulate blood flow and loosen up some of that lactic acid. If you’re really sore and concerned about a possible injury, try non-impact exercises that also incorporate gentle stretching such as swimming or yoga.
Bottom line: Don’t let soreness slow you down! Alter your activities, minimize them if you need to, but do what you can to resolve the issue.
If you found this advice helpful and would like to support the charity I’m representing for the Boston Marathon, I’d truly appreciate it! Visit my “Support Me” page to make a quick, tax-deductible donation while you’re thinking about it.
Thanks for your help and happy running!