My weekend was shot due to muscle pain and serious joint swelling after five days of cycling. It was unusual for me because the overall workload and intensity was low…compared to what I usually call a workout. So a little research shows that IL-6 production (interluekin-6) increases with the intensity and number of muscles involved in exercise. Sprinting gives you a huge boost of IL-6, jogging only a little bit.

Since cycling involves only the legs, that’s less muscle. It has been observed that in low intensity exercise like jogging, IL-6 production doesn’t even start until later in the workout. And jogging involves more muscles than cycling, so produces more IL-6.

So I’m thinking that my cycling sessions, at an average of 35 minutes each, are probably ending right about the time my body is starting to ramp up IL-6 production. Bummer.

Since IL-6 serves to decrease inflammation (It also increases fat burning, and helps you not have type-2 diabetes and heart attacks,) my workout is not having the anti-inflammatory effect I usually depend on my workouts to provide. Therefor I’m suffering from swollen joints and much muscle pain.

So what can I do about it? I had already increased the anti-inflammatory foods in my diet in preparation, but I could probably add some more. More spices and curry would help some. I can also use mechanical aids like ice and massage. Or I can increase my IL-6 production by going for a longer ride. A half-hour ride is too short, if I push it to one hour, I might get more IL-6 production. I can also try ramping up the intensity, adding sprint sessions to my ride. Finally, I can add more intense other muscle exercise to my ride…jump of the bike at the end of a ride and do some gymnastics or sprinting on foot.

It seems counter-intuitive to increase exercise to decrease pain from exercise, but humans are meant to move. We aren’t meant to “exercise” at all. We are meant to chase a deer down all day…or sit on our lazy asses for hours, and then suddenly take off like a rocket after a rabbit, hoisting a rock to render it into dinner. We carry heavy things for amazing distances, climb things we shouldn’t…we move. Moving makes us healthy, and IL-6 is only one of the many ways that happens.