The Science and Philosophy of Muscle Soreness

Life is lived in the details; we go through our day and live our lives sometimes forgetting that each second contains billions of choices and small moments. A quality life includes extreme ownership of all the pieces of our lives from taking care of the cells in our body to figuring out what to eat. When we make a choice to exercise, that means owning each piece of that process whether that is listening to your body or recovering well. A commitment to small moments of hard work and self care produce a lifetime of longevity.


Even the makeup of your body understands this philosophy down to the very way it’s built and grown. Consider when you’re looking to make bigger gains. When you want bigger muscles, that process includes a lot of breaking down both of your body and mind to handle the extra stress of a heavier load. The truth of the matter is, that everytime you workout, it’s a continuous process of microtears along the muscle. The tougher the intensity of the workout, the more microtears your muscles experience. These tears are the muscles breaking down from the stress of the exercise. 


Let’s dive deeper into what is going on for your muscle cells while they are under stress. Muscles are made up of different parts, the smallest ones and most important for this discussion are the myocyte and myofibril. The myocyte is a muscle cell that is made up of thousands of myofibrils, which are muscle fibers. Imagine the myocyte is a rope, and the myofibrils are the individual fibers within the rope. During a workout, those myofibrils work together to pick up the weight you are lifting. If under enough stress, the myofibrils will start to tear in an effort to handle the extra load of weight. For every myocyte, this process happens again and again by the thousands. This constant stress and breakdown of each fiber is a wound that your body has to take care of. 


The healing begins with your body fusing those broken fibers. The body will send a number of vitamins, proteins, and blood flow to help the healing process. There might be some inflammation and even some fluid retention around those muscle cells. The best part of this process is that once these muscle fibers heal, the muscle will be stronger than before. By repeatedly challenging these muscles to adapt to difficult exercises, you are making them more capable. All of these microscopic actions take place within your body, and allow you to accomplish a lot, like lifting hundreds of pounds or run faster than you ever thought you could. As we grow we must learn to  lean into the natural process your body is already doing. By showing up for yourself in the small moments of life today, you’ll be able to reach your long term goals. 


So how do we recognize these small moments? It’s simple; just pay attention. Instead of mindlessly reaching for an empty calorie snack, or overworking yourself, take a breath. If you give your mind enough space to think about what you’re doing, you can take an extra second to make a different choice. There’s a tried and true method called the box breathing method. The research shows that there is a correlation between breathing and the way you feel and think. If the breath is shallow, uncontrolled then it may be related to stress or panic, but deep diaphragmatic breathing promotes relaxation. 

  • Start the box breathing method by breathing in through your nose for four seconds 
  • Hold your breath for four seconds
  • Release all that pent up air through your nose for four seconds
  • Then rest for four seconds, and start all over again if you need to

This will help calm your mind and give your brain the space it needs to think. And while taking into account the billions of actions your body is performing at the cellular level, including post exercise recovery, being mindful about how our body works to repair itself is especially crucial as we continue to force growth into our life. Or better yet, as growth is naturally forced into our life. For we know there are many things we cannot control, and for the ones we can let’s be sure we are doing our best in being proactive. Eat appropriate amounts of nutrient dense protein; including grass fed red meat, omega 3 rich fish and seafood, and lean poultry as well as clean carbohydrates to refill the energy storage burned while training and needed to rebuild the muscle, and incorporate plenty of healthy fats to keep hormone levels regulated and an appropriate amount of energy storage. 


The point of maintaining a healthy body should be for longevity. We should all strive to live a long purpose driven life full of activities we love, creating great moments and having an abundance in vitality while going through it.  We’ll leave you with this quote from famous Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor, Viktor E. Frankl, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 


We hope you enjoyed today’s discussion! And we look forward to having you join us next week as we go even deeper into the understanding of our mind and body connection. 


Blessings, Coach Adan Martinez

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