Sore muscles are a sure sign that your exercise routine is working. For many, sore muscles are like a badge of honor – those glutes and traps hurt so good.
But what if your sore muscles thanks to yesterday’s workout are making it difficult to exercise today?
Are you at risk for injury when working out while sore? Can you (and should you) power through the pain?
This article answers all of these questions and more!
Grab your foam roller and let’s discuss the dos and don’ts of working out while sore.
Why Am I Sore?
You can’t lift your arms to wash your hair or lower your body to use the toilet without a pang of discomfort. Your muscles are officially hard at work.
While pain is usually the body’s way of telling you something is wrong, sore muscles are a completely normal and healthy part of your exercise routine. But what causes them?
When you work your muscles in new and different ways, tiny tears in the muscle fibers occur. This causes both muscle soreness and stiffness. As the muscles heal and repair themselves, they build bigger and stronger.
This is especially true if you’re starting a new regime and working different muscles than normal. The constant repetition of tiny muscle tears and healing leads to muscle gain.
Over time, your muscles become familiar with the same movements and less resistant to tears. This is known as muscle memory and it’s one of the reasons a well-rounded exercise regime is most beneficial.
A common form of muscle soreness, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) usually sets in between 24 and 48 hours following strenuous exercise.
So, what should you do if you’re experiencing muscle soreness after several days but don’t want to stop your workout regime?
Let’s explore safe exercises to perform and signs you should stop.
Is Working Out While Sore Dangerous?
To answer this question, it all comes down to listening to your body. Exercising while still feeling sore isn’t dangerous in itself. Start off slow and see how you feel.
Opt for a less intense workout than the one that caused your muscle soreness. For example, if you run several miles the day before and your legs are sore and stiff, try swimming, yoga, or another low impact exercise.
Anything that promotes stretching and flexibility will help ease sore muscles and encourage healing.
If, instead, your upper body is sore try using a stationary bike or taking a brisk walk.
Don’t be afraid to take a break from exercise, either. If your muscles are extremely sore and your body feels weak, give it a rest. Missing one workout won’t deter your health efforts.
Signs that you’re pushing your body too hard include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Increased heart rate
- Declining athletic performance
But remember, even though muscle soreness is common if you’re experiencing extreme or unusual pain it’s best you consult a medical professional.
Recognizing Signs of Injury
Working out while sore is fine, as long as you do it safely. For beginners or those starting a new workout regime, it’s important to recognize the difference between normal soreness and signs of an injury.
Soreness is more uncomfortable than it is painful. It also subsides after 48 to 72 hours.
If you’re experiencing extreme pain that lasts longer than three days, you may be facing a serious injury. Continuing to exercise at this point can be dangerous.
Most people describe soreness as a dull, ache. It’s usually localized to the area you recently worked and subsides with time, rest, and stretching.
Injuries, on the other hand, are accompanied by a different type of pain. Signs of an injury include:
- Sharp pain
- Numbness or tingling
- Inability to use the injured area
- Black and blue or redness
- Tender to the touch
If you suspect you’ve experienced an exercise-related injury, cease all physical activity and seek medical attention.
Be Proactive with Muscle Soreness
One of the best ways to counteract muscle soreness is to prevent it in the first place. While it’s perfectly safe to exercise with sore muscles, it can be uncomfortable.
It may also prevent you from exercising as hard or as long as you planned. Avoid a roadblock in your workout by practicing some of these tricks.
Cool Down After Each Workout
Cooling down after your exercise is just as important as warming up. Abruptly ending a high-intensity workout can be dangerous and cause you to feel light-headed.
Cooling down helps slowly reduce your heart rate and return your breathing to normal. Your body also gradually cools down, letting your muscles return to their original state of rest.
Stretching for about 10 minutes following a workout helps expel lactic acid from your body. Built-up lactic acid adds to the burning, sore feeling your muscles experience post-workout.
There was never a better reason to indulge in a massage than easing sore muscles. Pamper yourself with a deep tissue massage, a trip to the sauna, or some foam rolling.
All of these little indulgences help break up sore, tense muscles and improve circulation and the flow of oxygen. This means a faster, less painful recovery.
Choose the Right Recovery Exercises
The key to workout out while sore is choosing the right exercises. Your body has several muscle groups – avoid working the same group two days in a row.
Choose low-intensity exercises that promote circulation and stretching. Yoga, pilates, and swimming are the perfect recovery workouts for remaining active with sore muscles.
Ease Into Any New Workout Routines
Anytime you start a new workout regime, it’s important to start slow. Try exercising with light weights and for shorter periods of time to start.
Once you build strength and endurance, you can slowly increase the intensity of your workouts. Rushing into an unfamiliar, high-intensity workout will increase your risk of sore muscles and injury.
Working Out While Sore, Done Right
If you enjoy exercising and pushing your body to new limits, you may be wondering if working out while sore is safe.
In short, yes!
As long as you listen to your body, choose the right recovery exercises, and cool down and stretch, sore muscles shouldn’t stop you from getting in your daily dose of exercise.
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