When was the last time you were sore? Really, uncomfortably sore? Unless you recently started a workout program that is in some way different than your normal movements, it’s probably been a while.
We tend to (logically) avoid discomfort. If you haven’t moved for a long time, some soreness is to be expected when you begin an exercise program because more movement is greater than no movement. For those of us that exercise regularly, soreness is sometimes a bit of a shock, as though our current exercise routine should make us impervious to soreness that results from a new stimulus.
The soreness that shows up a few hours after exercise and lasts up to 72 hours is delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Scientists believe it is likely caused by the muscle cell damage that follows a bout of eccentric exercise. The body’s response includes soreness, inflammation, and a reduction in muscular force production while the cellular healing response moves in to make the tissue stronger, more resilient. Basically, a little bit of discomfort occurs so that next time you do that exercise, you are more able to tolerate it.*
When I first started public speaking during workshops and lectures, I would get extremely nervous, uncomfortable with how many people were going to be looking at me. I would gut through it, reminding myself to slow down, look at the audience, and keep going. The aftermath was draining. I was never pleased with my performance, and I would promise myself that next time would be better.
Slowly, as I continued to do it, I became more comfortable. The butterflies that used to sit in the pit of my stomach ceased. I began to connect with the audience better as I became more confident and practiced. The discomfort that used to occur eventually gave way to a sense of strength.
Being a little bit uncomfortable sometimes is okay. Repeating the uncomfortable situation, whether it’s in the form of exercise or life, is even better because eventually, it does get easier and you get stronger.
“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ~Jerry Seinfeld
*A good, basic read on DOMS: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-lactic-acid-buil/
**For those of you that like research, this was a really interesting study on force production following an eccentric bout of exercise: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262141/