You know the feeling... you finished a crazy tough work out and you can barely get out of bed the next day. Should you wait until the soreness is completely gone before you exercise again? Is it OK to work out while you're still work? Did you exert yourself too much, and that's why you're sore?
Let's put these four common myths about muscle soreness to rest, once and for all!
Myth 1: "Unless you're sore the next day, you didn't have a good workout."
Often times, women come to me believing that soreness is a badge of honor, and they didn't get a good work out unless they feel pain the next day. Unfortunately, that's not the truth.
There are many factors that influence muscle soreness. Sure, the intensity of your workout is one. But, did you take into account the idea that your body may be dehydrated? Or, maybe you didn't sleep well the night before your work out, so your muscles and body are exhausted?
Remember, soreness is NOT a gauge for how effective your workout was, nor is it a gauge for your overall fitness level.
Myth 2: "Is it safe to exercise if I'm sore after working out?"
Honestly, it depends on the type of soreness that you're feeling. If a hard-core workout pushes your muscles beyond their usual comfort zone and you feel tired and achy the next day, this is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS happens when you experience tiny tears in your muscles as they rose to the challenge you gave them during your workout. The repair process is crucial because that's how you become stronger.
DOMS usually happens within 24 hours of your workout, and disappears within a few days. During that time, I recommend a light workout such as a walk, a bike ride, swimming, or yoga. Sometimes putting your sore muscles back into the game can actually help them feel better because it enhances blood flow to the area, which helps in the repair process. When you're experiencing DOMS, don't forget to stretch at the end of your workouts!
However, if you're experiencing excruciating pain, or if you notice a muscle is sore to touch and you have a limited range of motion, you would be better off taking at least a day or two without exercise to rest and recover. If this is the case, gently stretch, apply a heating pad, or use a foam roller to gently massage the sore muscles. If this deep muscle pain is not better within a few days, consult your doctor.
Myth 3: The muscle damage that happens when you're sore is a bad thing.
As I mentioned above, the trauma that happens to your muscle fibers appears to cause soreness. The only way that your muscles can become stronger is by repairing themselves. Muscle trauma is actually needed to stimulate protein production, muscular strength, and muscular growth!
Myth 4: The more fit you are, the less your muscles will become sore.
Yes, it's true that you will start to feel less sore as your body adapts to your workouts. However, this is the exact reason that you should regularly change up your exercise routine! In order to hit your goals, (usually weight loss or gaining lean muscle), you have to constantly shock your body every 4 to 6 weeks with a new type of exercise. Every time you start a new form of exercise, it's common to get sore, no matter how fit you are.
In addition, there is also a genetic component to how sensitive our bodies are to pain and soreness. Everyone has a different pain threshold. And while you can't take control of your genes, it's good to know whether you have a high or low pain tolerance. This can help you understand how your body may respond to changes in your exercise routine.
Do you have any other questions about muscles? Or how and why they become sore? Drop them in the comments below and I'll answer them for you!