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Slaying a killer sweat sesh can feel great, but it can also leave you super sore. So, should you take a rest or jump into your next workout? Here’s what you need to know about working out when sore.
Working out when sore 101
Is it safe to work out when sore? Yes! Well, most of the time. Your muscles need time to rest and recover to prevent injury. So, planning your next workout will depend on your soreness level and what type of workout you want to do.
Should I lift weights when sore? No. You should avoid lifting heavy weights or doing any high impact activities if you’re sore. Pushing through the pain isn’t a good idea and can lead to a longer recovery.
Feeling slightly sore? An active recovery can help your bod bounce back. A mobility (full-range) exercise will get your blood pumping. This extra blood flow can help that sore feeling GTFO ASAP.
Active recovery tips
- Stretch it out. Try some universal stretches if you’re not sure where to start. See what feels best for you and go from there.
- Switch it up. Target a muscle group that isn’t sore. If yesterday was leg day, focus on your upper body today.
- Do some low intensity cardio (like walking or swimming).
- Try some light resistance exercises like core strengthening workouts.
Getting a post-workout rubdown may also help. A 2013 study found that a 10-minute massage helped with participants’ delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). But more research is needed in this area. The same study also found that the use of resistance bands had the same effect on DOMS.
Muscle damage and regrowth
A new exercise can lead to cranky muscles. So can amping up the intensity of your workout routine. That’s because working out can create microscopic tears in your muscles. It can also cause muscle tissue to break down.
A 2013 review of studies showed that your body uses satellite cells to fix microtears. The cells build up over time to protect you from future soreness, making your muscles more resilient to exercise. They also stimulate muscle growth.
Protein PSA: Maintaining a protein-rich diet is also key to muscle recovery.
Incorporating gentle recovery exercises into your workout can have beaucoup benefits. But it’s possible to overtrain. Overtraining can be harmful — and even dangerous — to your health. That’s why you need to listen to your body.
Take a timeout from your workout if you have:
- joint pain
- muscle pain
- mood changes
- a decrease in appetite
- injuries from overuse
- an increase in resting heart rate
- a higher number of colds or illnesses
You should also take a siesta if your athletic performance gets worse or barely improves even after rest.
Make sure to let your doctor know if you experience any of these symptoms.
That “hurts so good” post-workout soreness can be gratifying AF. But it can also be hella uncomfortable. Thankfully, it shouldn’t last long. The height of the discomfort usually lasts 24 to 72 hours. But injuries are a different story.
Signs it’s an injury
You might have an injury if you have:
- sharp pain
- black or blue marks
- numbness or tingling
- pain that won’t disappear
- a loss of muscle function or movement
- a queasy, dizzy, or uncomfortable feeling
Talk to your doctor if you suspect an injury. For a less serious injury, they may suggest an over-the-counter medication or an at-home treatment like icing the injured area.
If the injury is more severe, your doctor may need to take a deeper look by doing an X-ray. The X-ray can help them figure out the best treatment option for you.
A pre-workout warmup preps your bod for working out and gets your heart pumping. But a post-workout cooldown eases your body into a resting state, preventing future soreness.
When you exercise, lactic acid builds up and causes that burning feeling in your muscles. A cooldown can help clear the lactic acid from your body to help you recover faster.
Try this cooldown after your next workout:
- Start with a 5- to 10-minute walk or a gentle spin on a stationary bike.
- Follow with 5 to 10 minutes of stretching.
Aftercare is also vital. These recovery activities can help prevent or reduce soreness in the days following your workout:
- light cycling
- swimming laps
- walking or light hiking
- resistance band exercises
Pro tip: A foam roller is also a great way to release tension and ease your muscles after a workout.
Also, it’s a good idea to start slow. It’s all about your limits. Don’t dive into super advanced routines on day one. Increase the frequency and intensity of your workouts over time to help prevent soreness or injury.
If your soreness lasts longer than a week, talk to your doctor to make sure you don’t have an injury. You can also work with a certified fitness professional on injury prevention and recovery.
Post-workout soreness is normal and usually goes away within a few days. Active recovery exercises can help you feel better faster.
Just remember, R&R should be part of every healthy workout regimen. Your muscles need that time to build strength, so listen to your body and take it slow. It’s all part of the process.