Q: I stay sore from working out hard. What can I do to help with the muscle soreness and fatigue?


I don't know what kind of workout--aerobics, running, power yoga, bicycling, or weightlifting--is leaving you sore and tired. I also don't know how recently you began to work out so hard. Soreness and fatigue can mean several things. When we begin to use certain muscles that we haven't exercised for a long while, they usually ache. If you've never done handstands in yoga or played tennis, the first time you do either, your arm muscles will let you know loud and clear.

Generally, soreness comes from not flushing out the metabolic byproducts that accumulate when muscles repeatedly contract to carry out a particular asana or athletic movement. Stretching afterward helps, as does a hot bath or sauna, and, of course, rest. Exercising regularly is great for mood, health, sleep, weight control, muscle tone, and bone strength. But taking a break regularly is important, too. When we don't give our body the opportunity to renew itself, we wind up feeling depleted rather than energized by exercise. Aside from taking a day off, we can also replenish our energy by offsetting or counterbalancing intense workouts with gentler movements, such as T'ai chi, Chi-kung, or Self-Breema, a group of exercises developed in a mountain village in the Near East and later brought to California.

Soreness and fatigue may also represent mental obstacles we need to break through in order to maintain our discipline or reach the next level of practice. We all experience doubts that show up in different ways. Some days, we just don't feel like going to yoga class or going out for a run. Maybe we're aching from our last exercise session. Maybe we're tired from work. Maybe we have a list of things to do. Maybe...a hundred excuses. As long as we don't have the flu, haven't fractured a bone or torn a muscle, and the doctor hasn't said to cut back or quit for other medical reasons, we can push through the excuse barrier and move forward. When we make a commitment to our well-being, we get up and do a salutation to the sun in the morning even if we are sleepy and would rather stay in bed.

As with any practice, we need to learn how to distinguish between pain that is potentially damaging and a warning to protect ourselves and an ache we could turn into a reason for not persevering. We need to ask ourselves whether our fatigue is from working out or from overworking. Do we have a habit of overdoing everything in life? Are we sore and tired because we are not living in balance?

Check in with yourself at these different levels to determine where the soreness and fatigue are coming from. In the process, you might gain some valuable insights that will help you not only in workouts but also in working out other areas of your life.

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