Whatever your choice of fitness activity may be, I’m sure you’ve experienced your fair share of some pretty sore muscles and fatigue!
Being sore may seem like a bad thing, but it can actually be a good indicator that you worked super hard and are helping breakdown your muscles to build them back leaner!
(P.S. you don’t ALWAYS have to feel sore though!) But if you’re feeling sore for days on end, it can actually get in the way of you building some toned, lean muscles.
It can make it so much easier to skip the gym for the day, or days. It can make it so you don’t push yourself as hard during your next training session. You see where I’m going with this? Basically, soreness can be a major roadblock in your training if you let it.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do right now to help battle sore muscles and fatigue, and stay on track to hit your goals!
But first, let’s talk about what causes sore muscles.
What Causes Muscle Soreness?
You’re probably pretty familiar with that sore feeling that comes a day or two after a tough workout. Sometimes it’s barely noticeable, but other times it can be a pretty painful experience.
This prolonged soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and it’s caused by tiny micro-tears in your muscle tissue. That may sound traumatic, but don’t worry, it’s not!
When you workout, microscopic tears occur in your muscle fibers. With rest and proper nutrition, the muscle tissue you broke down during your workout grows back a little bit stronger than it was before.
This is the process by which our muscles grow stronger and more solid, and it’s 100% normal to feel sore after you work out.
While it’s important to give your muscles adequate time to recover, being sore shouldn’t necessarily keep you from working out.
Is it Okay to Workout When I’m Sore?
The simple answer to this question is yes.
When you workout, there’s a good chance that you will be sore afterward. This is particularly true when you’re just starting out.
Whether you’re just beginning to exercise for the first time, trying out a brand new workout program, or increasing the intensity beyond what you’re accustomed to, chances are you’ll be pretty sore for the first few days (maybe even a little longer).
In most cases, it’s perfectly alright to workout even while you’re sore. In fact, working out might help reduce your soreness!
As you continue along your fitness journey, your body will become more accustomed to regular exercise and you’ll find that you’re less sore after each workout.
There may be rare cases where it’s not okay to push through the pain though, and you should become familiar with recognizing the difference between good pain and bad pain.
Good Pain vs. Bad Pain
Okay, so not everyone describes muscle soreness as that “hurts so good” kind of pain. But many people do consider DOMS to be a sign that their workout was effective. That’s why sore muscles are referred to as good pain.
Although you may not agree that the pain of muscle soreness is a good feeling, it’s not a sign of injury and shouldn’t be reason for alarm. This is “good” pain.
But that’s not to say that ALL pain should be ignored and brushed aside.
If you experience pain isolated in your joints (knees, hips, ankles, etc) that grows particularly strong when you move, this is “bad” pain. It could be a sign of injury, especially if it’s sudden or sharp, or if it’s associated with a particular motion.
The pain of an injury probably won’t go away as you stretch and warm-up, or as you continue to exercise day after day. If you experience pain that feels different than normal soreness and it doesn’t go away, you may want to visit a professional just in case.
Recovering Sore Muscles
Okay, so now that you know what causes sore muscles, let’s dive into how to prevent and treat your muscle soreness!
Stretch and Warm-Up
It is SO important before any workout to warm-up properly to alleviate any potential soreness that may occur from working cold, tight muscles. So be sure to add in even just a quick 5 minute cardio warm-up and stretching session to get your body ready to work hard.
Afterward, recovery is key to help you avoid injuries and will also help expel some of the lactic acid building in your muscles, which can contribute to soreness.
Try rolling out your muscles on a foam roller or lacrosse ball, stretch more, and even take an ice bath or a hot bath with some Epsom salts!
After a long week of training and working hard, it is essential that you take a rest day. In my 15-day challenge eBook, Ready, Set, Run! , I recommend taking a rest day once a week on Sundays.
Your muscles are torn and fatigued, and they need time to heal. Skipping rest days may not seem like that big of a deal, but in reality, it could set back all the hard work you’ve put in.
Rest days are just as important as the workouts themselves! This is when you give your muscles extra time to recover.
There are two different types of resting days that you can choose between on your designated day of the week: optimal recovery days and active recovery days.
Optimal Recovery Days
Optimal recovery days are literally rest days; meaning you do not do anything strenuous if it can be helped. On these days you should relax! Enjoy sleeping in, lounge and read a good book. Maybe even some Netflix and sneak in a nap!
Your body needs to recover and become stronger. These days may feel lazy or unimportant to you; but the rest is key when it comes to your fitness goals! So, seriously, take a day and rest those sore muscles!
Active Recovery Days
Active recovery means you are still getting out and being active, but you are not doing something as strenuous as you did the day before.
For example, instead of doing a strenuous 8 mile trail run, instead do a light run through your neighborhood to get the blood pumping.
Or, you could do some low-impact exercise like cycling, yoga, and swimming. The possibilities are endless, so get creative and get outside if you can!
It is so vital to stay hydrated during any strenuous activity, especially to help avoid sore muscles and fatigue!
According to Sara Edwards, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, “Hydration is important before and throughout your workout to prevent cramping and decrease inflammation (and muscle soreness) after exercise.”
So the bottom line is to keep drinking plenty of water!
How Much Water Should I Drink?
It is commonly recommended that everyone should drink an ounce of water per pound they weight, per day. Or more generally, about eight 8oz glasses of water per day.
This may seem easy to do, but if you’re not actively counting how much you drink, you more than likely won’t be drinking enough!
You can get a water bottle, like this one, that helps you keep track throughout the day. Or even keep track on your phone in a note. It’s worth it to stay hydrated!
So try your best to avoid drinking sodas or energy drinks that are filled with sodium and sugars that will end up dehydrating you! I know.. they are delicious and tempting but you have to resist them as best as you can!