It used to be that the second day after basketball I’d really feel the pain (it’s called DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness), but I was surprised yesterday morning to find that I wasn’t hobbling around as much as I thought I might. It’s all relative, of course, but aside from a mysterious twinge at the top of my left shin, I was feeling pretty good. So I went through my usual morning meditation/workout routine and headed off to work.
There’s plenty of research to back up the notion that it’s better to exercise your creaky joints and aching muscles than it is to baby them. As Matt Fitzgerald points out in this EL piece from a couple of years ago, Swedish researchers in 2005 found that “moderate exercise strengthened cartilage, reduced pain and improved functional performance in a group of patients at risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knees.”
My Lovely Wife, whose bum right knee prevents her from running, relies on daily bicycle rides (yes, even in the Minnesota winter) to loosen — and strengthen — that troublesome joint. And her weekly yoga practice has allowed her to improve her flexibility to a point where she can now get pretty close to a 90-degree squat for the first time since she injured her knee more than 30 years ago. And I’ve found more often than not that even moderate movement is a great solution to creaky joints — and sore muscles.
This approach is echoed by Fitzgerald, who explains that exercise “literally warms the muscles, making them more pliable, and releases synovial fluid in the joints, lubricating them and allowing them to move more easily.”
So, despite my crazier-than-normal foray on the basketball court Monday night, I was able to push through whatever soreness I did have yesterday with a moderate morning workout. By evening, I felt good enough to hit the gym for a 3-mile “run” on the Elliptical Death Machine followed by a half-hour of lifting. Then, just to show off, I walked the 2 ½ miles home!!!