Workouts and exercise should make you feel great, motivated and get your blood pumping. However, there are times after a workout that you might not feel great or that something feels sore or tight that probably shouldn’t. These can just be short term effects and with a bit of rest and some simple stretches, they will more than likely get better quickly, leaving you free to get on with the next step of your exercise plan.
So, what these short-term effects that could happen – we’re talking about muscles here, not illnesses. If you do feel ill after a workout – you are probably dehydrated and need some salt. Grab a pint of water and grab a gel or salt tablet.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Probably the most well-known after effect of exercise is delayed onset muscle soreness. DOMS doesn’t usually kick in until one to two days after your workout and can last for a couple of days before you start feeling fresh again.
Why does it happen? If you have a structured training plan, then you are likely to experience DOMS as your body acclimatises to the heightened workload that you have put it under. Likewise, if you are trying a particular form of exercise for the first time, your body will take some time to adapt. DOMS is primarily caused by the micro-tears in the muscle which are, in turn, necessary for growth.
Acute Muscle Soreness
The burning sensation that you feel in your muscles immediately after a workout. This is different to DOMS and doesn’t last as long. If you work out, especially at higher intensity, it is OK to feel sore and tired afterwards. As long as the soreness doesn’t lead to pain, which is indicative of damage, then it’s perfectly normal.
Your muscles may also feel warm to touch and will likely feel tender for a couple of days. Again, this is perfectly normal and a sign that recovery is underway.
Lactic Acid Build-Up
Possibly the most uncomfortable feeling when you are working out is the build-up of lactic acid in your muscles. How much and how quickly the lactic acid builds up is largely dependent on a number of factors including your VO2 max and other biological markets. Lactic acid builds up in the muscles during exercise when energy is made anaerobically, or without oxygen. The good news is that the effect of lactic acid should wear off within an hour or so.
The Endorphin Rush
Possibly the most pleasurable short-term effect of exercise is the endorphin rush. Everyone who exercises regularly will know of that sweet feeling of satisfaction after a particularly hard or rewarding session. This is caused by the increased endorphins that are released when we exercise, and they are an important effect of exercise. Endorphins are also a pain-reliever, so you are likely to feel a reduced amount of soreness whilst the endorphins are circulating.
Increased breathing and heart rate
Immediately after your workout, your body will still be trying to get as much oxygen as possible to help your muscles cope with the increased workload. This will also increase your heart rate as your heart tries to pump more oxygenated blood around the body, removing CO2 through the same process.
Ok, so this one isn’t pretty, but occasionally if you’ve been working out really hard and it is warm weather outside, you can carry on sweating even after you’ve had a shower or done your cool down. It is normal and is just your body trying to keep itself cool. It could be that you’re still too warm, so grab a cloth and douse it in water and put it on the back of your neck or wrists which will help you cool.
Risk of injury
After a hard workout, it can be tempting to plan the next straight away but be careful. Your body needs time to recover. Whilst the process of recovery is underway, your body is not yet ready to perform at maximal effort again. Factor rest into your workout plan to ensure that you get the biggest benefit from your sessions. A well-balanced training plan which emphasises good quality sleep and rest as well as high quality, targeted sessions, will be more effective than one that mercilessly pushes through the pain every time.
These are just a handful of the short-term effects of exercise. As the body adapts to an increased workload, you will feel the effects, but it usually lasts for a short time before your body returns to normal. If you are ever concerned by the level of pain you experience, you should seek professional medical help. But in most cases, the old saying ‘no pain, no gain’ is true!