Should My Muscles Always be Sore After a Workout?

One thing that I tell all clients, old or new, is that their body will change, adapt and get “better” when they give it a new stimulus that it isn’t used to.  For example, if you’ve only ever done Zumba and then you try lifting weights… that is a new stimulus.  If you ALWAYS lift weights for 8- 12 repetitions per set and then go through a workout where you hit momentary muscular failure (MMF) at 4- 6 repetitions, that is also a new stimulus.  To be able to deal with the new stress, your body will adapt by building new muscle tissue to make the demand less severe.

Along with this adaptation comes some pain in the form of muscle soreness.  Any beginner that has started an exercise program has felt the deep muscle ache in their thighs, their chest and in their abdomen when they’ve pushed things further than they normally would.  Most beginners are also surprised at how quickly the soreness that they felt when they started disappears.  Does this mean that the program they are on is now less effective because they aren’t “feeling” it any more?  The answer to that is…  it depends!

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, your muscle soreness after a training session will be anywhere from non- existent (during a maintenance phase where you are simply trying to keep active) to extreme soreness (when you are preparing to conquer something that you have never done before).

At one time, fitness buffs talked about “No Pain, No Gain”.  As a message, this turned off casual exercisers who could have benefited greatly from more strenuous regimes.  As a reaction, the “no pain, no gain” mantra was pushed aside for the more friendly “gain without pain”.  The message being that you don’t HAVE to hurt after a workout to receive benefit.  I believe that ideally, things would land somewhere in the middle.  You don’t have to ALWAYS hurt after a workout, but, if you are going to train for your first marathon, or you are trying to shed 40 pounds of excess fat, then there will most definitely be times when your body is sore after a workout.

The trick is to determine what kind of pain you are experiencing.  If you’ve run stairs for the first time and the next day both of your calves feel sore, that’s okay.  If one of your Achilles tendons is aching and it is hard to put pressure on that side of your body, then that is not okay.

Pain (or soreness) is your body’s way of telling you that you better take note because you’ve overdone it a bit.  It can alert you to injury, overuse or just that you’ve worked out and your body is adapting.

Whenever we change the routine of a long-term fitness client, they’ll feel sore for a few days.  That’s normal.  The greatest amount of muscle soreness will occur between 48 and 72 hours and then, it should start to dissipate.

Here are a few things to be aware of that aren’t normal and that you should not ignore. 

1-  Pain in a single limb when you’ve worked both legs or arms equally.

2-  Extreme soreness that lasts more than 3 to 4 days.

3-  Joint pain.  It’s okay for your muscles to be sore, not your joints.

4-  Radiating pain that shoots to another part of your body.  ex:  Pain traveling from your shoulder to your elbow.

5-  Numbness or tingling.  This is usually a sign of nerve damage.

6-  Soreness that never seems to lessen no matter how long you repeat a specific  workout routine.

7-  Pain that is worse at night and that may wake you from your sleep.

If you experience any of the above, you should consult with your physician.

Getting stronger, fitter and leaner is a process of adaptation.  Muscle soreness after exercise is normal.  It is usually tolerable and won’t have any long- term negative effects.

If you would like to get rid of muscle soreness, here are some tips that could help.

1-  Take a hot bath to increase blood flow and stretch gently in a hot shower or bath.

2-  Use a foam roller for self- massage.

3-  Do some light exercise, like walking or swimming, to increase blood flow and core body temperature.

4-  Be extra vigilant with your nutrition to ensure that your muscles get the protein and carbohydrates that they need.  When you are sore, it is NOT the time to cut back on your veggies!

5-  Be patient!  Time is the only thing guaranteed to get rid of all muscle soreness.

Ernie Schramayr–  Owner All Canadian Fitness

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