Getting swoll. Doing work. Pumping iron. No matter what you call it, exercising can be tough on your body. There’s a certain degree of pain or discomfort while you’re working out, but the real burn is often felt in the days after your initial trip to the gun show.
The reason why? Certain exercises create small tears in your muscle fibres, which require anywhere from 12 hours to 3 days to heal. “Even miniscule damage can cause an inflammatory reaction that triggers pain receptors,” says exercise physiologist Carol Torgan.
Known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness—or less clinically, “muscle fever”—these microscopic tears are most likely caused by actions that require your muscle to lengthen and flex at the same time (e.g., the descending motion of a bicep curl).
Icing, massage and ibuprofen might help alleviate some of the delayed soreness after a hard workout. But like with nearly everything else, time is the best cure: As you get stronger, you’ll be less susceptible to feeling beat up. So it’s important to stick with your workout regimen.