Expert Advice from FITiST Expert Dr. Mark Klion

1. What does it mean when my muscle starts shaking/trembling?
Muscle twitching or benign fasciculation syndrome is a condition that is characterized by muscle twitching of usually the face, arms and legs. It is commonly associated with exercise especially with endurance athletes. The exact mechanism is still not known but is thought to be due to excitability both of the nerves that send signals to muscles as well as the muscles themselves.  Some people think that a build up of lactic acid and or free radicals from intense exercise could be a causative factor in this condition. Muscle fatigue from prolonged exercise and electrolyte imbalance can also cause muscles to twitch. Often after a good cool down, rehydration, and recovery will this self-limited condition resolve. If one has persistent twitching, it may be helpful to seek out the advice from a qualified physician to rule out other causes of muscle irritability.

2. Why do I get sore? Why am I more sore the 2nd day following a workout? Is it good to be sore all the time, or is there a certain day/time at which it should plateau? And, if I stop getting sore does it mean it's not working anymore?
Delayed onset muscle soreness or the soreness that occurs 1-2 days after exercise is called the DOMS. It is a symptom of muscle damage that occurs after a strenuous exercise or unaccustomed activity. Most muscular injuries are caused by what are referred to as eccentric exercises or negative reps. As muscles produce force they actually lengthen in activities like running/sprinting and jumping. This is different than concentric exercises, like biceps curls, where the muscle shortens. The muscle is able to repair itself and become stronger, muscular adaptation, so that with continued participation in the activity DOMS will not reoccur. It is during the period of dull ache, stiffness and muscular tenderness that individuals are reluctant to return to activities. Often symptoms will resolve within 3-5 days with supportive care like application of ice, gentle stretching, and easy aerobic activity. Although soreness is perceived as a warning sign to stop activity, there is no literature to support that continued use of sore muscles is detrimental to the healing process. Prevention is accomplished by slowly introducing workouts like speed training, hill workouts, heavy lifting, or any activity that varies from your normal pattern. If there is soreness/discomfort and stiffness that persists more than 1 week, professional medical intervention is advised.

3. How important is it to stretch before I workout? After?

There are so many controversial reports about stretching in the literature these days. I think the take home message is that as we get older our tissues become stiffer. To help maintain motion about our joints, stretching may be beneficial. As to whether it affects performance in a positive or negative way is still unclear. To stretch after exercise makes more sense as the muscles are warmed up and somewhat more responsive to stretching. I think that if an easy warm up is performed, stretching can be done before the main exercise activity without risk of injury.

4 Is it really important to take a day off? Can a “light” day substitute for a day off?

The body needs an opportunity to heal itself. Recovery days (when an athlete either stops all athletic activity or performs an easy low aerobic/intensity workout) are important. These days are essential both physically and mentally. It is almost impossible to workout hard everyday. The body will not progress and get stronger. Musculoskeletal damage and injury may occur as well as affecting other body systems like immunity. How often does a marathon runner get a cold after a race? A lot!