Balancing the Imbalanced

Exercise in itself is supposed to be a growing experience that pushes you to the edge of your comfort zone…that’s where change comes from.  But it can be made infinitely harder when you’re sore before, during, and after a workout.  And if it gets bad enough, it can make you stop working out all together.

I always thought that the reason for this was your body adjusting to your increased activity level and maybe doing too much too fast.  I use the example of running because its application is easy and relatable (at least to me).  If you have never run, and then one day decide to run/walk a mile, chances are you will wake up with sore muscles.  You’re engaging muscles, tendons, and other areas that have otherwise been sedentary.  There are going to be some aches.  Likewise, as you continue your training trend, eventually you will start to notice your legs or your core are not up to par.  You abdominals hurt while your run or your deadweight legs are why you have to stop (not the lack of air).  So you do some cross training to strengthen the muscles and continue training like a boss!

There is also the possibility of doing too much too soon.  In the above example, if you have never run and decide to go outside and run 3 miles, you could seriously hurt yourself.  Anything from shin splints, torn muscles, or foot fractures are a real possibility.  In this case, you gradually build your mileage and save some injuries.

However, I was reading an article on another great blog I read that reasoned a third possibility…muscle imbalance could also be causing those tired, achy muscles (HelloHealthy:  Tight and Achy After Exercise?  Muscle Imbalance Might Be to Blame).  Runners, for example, usually have strong quads and weaker hamstrings.  This is why many develop knee pain.  Others also develop sore calf muscles that cause a change in gait (their running motion).  The HelloHealthy article suggest that by balancing these muscles, running or other exercises become immensely more enjoyable.

The article states there are four different areas of imbalance that could be causing aches and pains…mobility, stability, strength, and power.  Those are the four areas that need to be addressed, and in that order.  Mobility is loosening the muscles to create better movement.  Ever wonder why your knees hurt after a particularly hard workout?  Tight calves may be to blame.  Foam rolling and stretches targeting specific muscles will be your saving grace.  Once you’ve loosened muscles, you can begin to strengthen them again.  And as the article implies, make sure the strengthening is balanced and even; or you’ll just have loose, imbalanced muscles!

There is no need to fear or loathe exercise because of potential achy muscles.  If you find yourself getting achy or unusually tired, take a step back and ask yourself, 1) did you increase your activity, or 2) did you do too much too soon considering your activity levels over the last couple of weeks.  If those aren’t the culprits, consider that you may be imbalanced.

(Please visit HelloHealthy for their take on imbalanced muscles!)

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