It’s well documented that muscles need rest in order to grow. As such, many people often wonder whether or not working out when sore is a good idea. The answer depends on the type of pain you are feeling, as a certain degree of soreness is required if you are to experience muscle gains.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
The gradual discomfort you experience within 24 to 48 hours after exercise is referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. This type of soreness is perfectly normal, and is a natural result of performing an activity your body is not conditioned to doing. Even the fittest athletes can experience DOMS if they alter their workout in any way – for example, running up and down stairs rather than on a track. According to Rick Sharp, a professor of exercise physiology at Iowa State University, “muscles go through quite a bit of physical stress when we exercise”. This is due to micro-trauma or small tears in the muscle, something that is to be expected after a hard workout.
Dealing with DOMS
It isn’t necessary to stop working out when sore. Instead, you should take measures to deal with your discomfort. Warming up before and stretching after exercising will make your muscles more flexible and reduce the amount of soreness you have. Other things you can do to deal with DOMS include:
- Consuming more protein – A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that muscle soreness decreased whenever participants consumed post-exercise protein supplements.
- Performing a light massage whenever you begin to feel achy. Just avoid doing so immediately following a workout, as this could interfere with your body’s natural recovery process.
- Applying ice to the muscles, particularly if they also appear swollen.
- Getting enough sleep – it is only during deep sleep that recovery occurs.
Continue working out when sore, but do not push your body beyond what it can handle. Consider performing a lighter than normal workout if you are particularly sore.
When to Avoid Exercising
Although DOMS is to be expected, there could nonetheless be times when muscle soreness could be reason enough to skip a workout. If you experience any of the following symptoms, this may indicate you have a more serious injury that requires adequate rest in order to heal:
- An inability to move certain parts of the body.
- Sharp shooting pains, particularly if accompanied by very “warm” muscles.
- Excessive swelling.
- Pain that becomes more intense after exercising.
- Discomfort that does not subside within 48 hours.
- Muscle soreness that does not respond to home remedies such as taking over-the-counter medication.
In the event you have one or more of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention right away to rule out a more serious injury.
Muscle soreness is something that everyone experiences, yet no one looks forward to. You must work through muscle soreness if you want to get in better shape. Don’t let DOMS stop you from getting into the best shape of your life. By working out when sore, you can continue to strive toward new fitness goals.