Coming back from a hand injury that left me off rock for a little over a month, I could not help but notice how extremely sore my arms were after my first session back. So sore, I could barely hold my pen while studying a lecture I'd attended the day before. This wasn't the first time lactic acid had left me feeling disabled. I knew it was lactic acid making me hurt so bad, I had that told to me the first day I left the gym many years ago. Yet, I didn't know just what was going on in my muscles.
I decided to do a little investigating for Flashed, and put together what I came up with. I've also added some websites (in brackets) so you can look into it more yourself.
What is it? Lactic acid is produced when not enough oxygenated blood is flowing into your muscles. When we can't get enough oxygen, our muscles must get their energy from glucose. When glucose is used, it breaks down into a substance called pyruvate. When oxygen is a great supply, pyruvate is shuttled through aerobic pathways so it can be broken down further. When we are lacking oxygen, our body converts into a substance called lactate. This lactate allows glucose breakdown, and from that, energy production. Working muscles can perform this process for 1-3 minutes during which time lactate can accumulate to high levels (Prof. Roth. Kin dept. Marylan Uni.)
When we climb our muscles contract and this squeezes our capillaries. These are the smallest vessels that exchange water, oxygen and carbon dioxide between blood and surrounding tissue. Our capillaries can become completely closed when as little as 50% of our maximum strength is used. This means that no oxygen rich blood can get to our tissues. No oxygen is needed for the contraction of the muscles, but it is needed for the relaxation of muscles. No energy, no relaxation. Therefore your contraction will go on for a long time. Which means no more oxygen to the tissues. This starts a vicious circle. (www.8a.nu)
Prevention... ? A good way to avoid lactic acid is to increase flood flow. There's two strategic exercises that can help with this. First, the Buteyko breathing method. Mostly used for asthma patients, and developed by Dr. Arthur Rakhimov. This breathing method emphasises the the use of nasal breathing this helps protects the airways through humidifying, warming and cleaning the air entering lungs. It also concentrates on 'controlled pause' breathing. This allows a person to go longer without needing to take a deep breath. With practice, overtime can be increased. This method is similar to one already discovered by many climbing practitioners. The yoga breathing exercise of Pranayama is extremely useful while climbing.
Pranayama Process 1. Inhale (puraka) This will stun the systems, and begins the process by filling the lungs with clean air. 2. Retention (kambhaka) This raises a person's internal temperature. It is essential to increasing the absorption of oxygen. 3. Exhale (rechak) The diaphragm returns to its original position, and the air full of toxins and impurities is forced out of the body. (www.healthandyoga.com) This exercise messages the abs and tones various working organs in the body. The success of this exercise depends on the proper timing being maintained between each of the 3 steps.
Relieving Lactic The best way to get rid of lactic is lots of stretching, water and healthy foods that promote a healthy blood flow (such as fish, vegetables and dark chocolate). Another way, which I found extremely helpful when experiencing lactic after long runs was contrast baths. By moving from a very hot baths to a very cold one, it increased blood flow. This flushed most lactic, and combined with water and stretching it was possible to be lactic free. The trick is to spend more time in the hot bath, than the cold.
DOMS DOMS DOMSSSSS! Be aware! Lactic is not the culprit of sore muscles, pain and stiffness in the hours or days following a hard workout. Lactic dispenses quickly and does not cause lasting damage. What you would be experiencing is DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This is pain cause from micro tears and inflammation in muscle fibres and tendons. A small amount of DOMS is good, it means you've worked hard. Severe DOMS, which can be debilitating (remember the day after your first time at the climbing gym?), is an indication you've pushed too far. Maybe take a day off.
In all, lactic is good. It shows you're working hard and your body is functioning properly. Just remember, everyone has excuses. Champions just don't use them. Allez! Picture from: www.8a.nu