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By Leslie McNabb

Created: 02/02/2010
Last Updated: 06/11/2013

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Q: If I miss more than a few days of exercising, I get really sore following my first workout back. Any tips that can help me avoid this?

Muscle soreness occurs when muscles are pushed farther than they are accustomed. This can happen if you haven’t worked out in a while, you try a new exercise for the first time, or if you make an increase in weight or reps during your daily routine. A small amount of soreness isn’t harmful and usually dissipates as you get your body warmed up and moving.

If your soreness keeps you from doing your everyday activities in the 24 to 48 hours after your workout, you are probably doing too much on your first day back to the gym. To avoid being overly sore, don’t try to do the same workout you did when you were going to the gym regularly. To allow time for your body to adapt, scale back the amount of weight, the amount of reps, or even both. Doing a “cool down” routine after your workout will also help keep soreness at bay. Try walking for 10 minutes and doing some gentle stretching.

Whether you experience light or heavy soreness, the quickest way to alleviate the pain is to get the body moving again. While it might be tempting to stay stationary on the couch and wait for the soreness to go away, inactivity will actually keep your body sore for longer and make your muscles tighter. Instead, do a light workout such as walking, slow swimming, and gentle stretching. Or, you can do the warm-up routine you usually do before a heavy workout. This light activity will help increase the muscle temperature and blood flow, which will help your muscles recover and get you ready for your next regular workout.

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