Sore Muscles – Does Having Soreness Equal a Good Workout?


If your muscles are sore then you had a good workout, right? Well, maybe. There is soreness, fatigue, and pain. If you experience sudden severe pain while exercising you should stop immediately. If it continues for two or three days or if it interferes with your normal daily activities including interrupting your sleep, you should seek medical attention. One type of sudden pain that does not require a physician’s help is a muscle cramp. A cramp is an involuntary spasm that is forceful and sustained. It usually lasts between a few seconds and several minutes. The pain it causes can usually be relieved by gently stretching the muscle. Another type of pain, chronic, can develop after a major injury or illness. It lingers and often causes discomfort. It will affect you throughout the day, whether or not you are exercising.

If you find your muscles weakening or becoming fatigued during exercise, you should reduce your intensity or stop exercising completely. Not doing so can result in injury. Soon after you finish your workout, replenish your fluids and eat a recovery meal consisting of carbohydrates and protein. If you plan on repeating this workout, you may need to better hydrate yourself or have more energy stored in your body to help you finish it next time. Try to eat a small meal and drink about 16 oz. of water about an hour prior.

Soreness beginning immediately following exercise is usually the result of lactic acid build up and generally lasts up to a day or two. It will go away by itself. There is also the muscle soreness that occurs after someone begins a new exercise program or movement, performs eccentric contractions, or significantly increases the weight she is lifting or distance he is running or cycling. These changes in a routine or even intense workouts cause microscopic tears in muscle fibers. While the muscles are recovering and growing, side effects include swelling and pain which often result in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS usually reaches its peak 12 – 24 hours after exercise and then subsides over the next few days.

An all-encompassing panacea for DOMS does not exist, but many people find one or more of these treatments effective:

  • Stretching after exercise while muscles are still warm.
  • Gently massaging the muscle.
  • Icing the affected area for 20 minutes following exercise.
  • Drinking ample water throughout the day to keep hydrated.
  • Taking over-the-counter medication such as Advil to block the pain and inflammation, but these may adversely affect the growing process of the muscle.
  • Taking protein supplements immediately following exercise.

Some choose to just wait it out. It is important to allow your muscles ample time to recover before training them again. Don’t take this lightly. Muscle recovery is as important as engaging them during exercise.

Many people actually enjoy the feeling of DOMS. They believe that they had a good workout if they are sore for 3 or 4 days. Don’t use this as a measure of your success. Instead track your progress such as how much weight you lifted or how far you walked, and let the data do the talking. Soreness is normal, depending on your exercise intensity and program. But if you experience pain, stop immediately. “No pain, no gain” is only a myth.

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About Author

From an early age, Sharon was encouraged to participate in competitive sports including soccer, basketball, track, softball, and volleyball. She has been an athlete and fitness enthusiast ever since. She explains that her parents instilled in her a level of self-confidence that has touched everything she does. See my profile page for more information!

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