The alarm is belting your ears, you sit up in bed- all good so far. You spin around ready to stand up and as you do- it hits you. Your butt muscles are aching, your quads are hurting.
You grunt. You groan and eventually through more luck than muscle control you’re standing up and limping to the bathroom. You decide to do your number one’s in the shower today because the mere thought of squatting to the toilet, even to lift the lid is out of the question today.
Yesterdays workout has got you and it’s got you good.
Judging by how sore you are it must have been a good workout, right?
If I have learnt anything in the last year it is to answer almost any question with the often frustrating response of “it depends”.
Muscle soreness itself, isn’t always indicative of a good workout. Occasionally yes. Always? No.
The actual pain in your muscles you’re feeling is a combination of muscle damage as the exercise causes teensy, tiny tears in the tissue- when it heals, that is the process of muscle growth. It is also remaining waste product in the tissue still flushing from the system.
It is highly likely however in the instance of extreme pain that perhaps it was your first gym session for a while, or ever and you’ve gone a little too hard.
Often when taking an enthusiastic new member through our Fundamentals pack we are laughed at for how the training sessions seems a little or even a lot easier than they originally expected. We do this for a couple reasons:
- The role of introductory sessions for us is as much education as it is movement- hard work will come, we can assure that. Learning how to work smart is the priority in the beginning
- We are looking for gaps in your health, fitness, strength, mobility and trying to fix them, or effectively plan to fix them rather than exploiting them with too much load/speed or too little rest.
- Quality in the beginning. Quantity once quality is autonomous.
What is important to remember is that life changing results aren’t achieved in one training session- you can’t literally belt the fat off in one workout. Stretch the timeline out over a period of weeks, ideally to months assuming you don’t want short term results that don’t last.
If long term health change is what you’re after, and it should be what you’re after it pays to remember that results are not always a linear endeavour. There will be good days, bad days and everything in between.
There will be training sessions where your body is sore- it’s part and parcel with the work but just because you aren’t in pain, does not mean that your session was a waste.
When is muscle soreness a good thing?
It’s time to build some lean muscle tissue and for that to occur existing muscle tissue needs to go through a little bit of trauma (sounds horrific- but it ain’t THAT bad)- a little bit of muscle damage from a carefully planned program.
Your recovery will impact muscle soreness too but won’t necessarily remove it.
Another time you can expect muscle soreness is following a change in programming. Over the course of a program we plan to shock the body with a new and challenging stimulus, forcing the body to adapt to the change in stimulus/intensity and then we change the program up to keep this process moving.
With the change in program and new stimulus you can expect some muscle pain.
When is it ok to not be sore?
Sometimes the intensity you put into your training session and the muscle pain you feel the next day just don’t match up. I’ve had training sessions where I was terrified to sleep out of fear how sore I would be the following day only to eventually wake up and feel a million dollars.
You don’t need to be sore to have done a solid workout. Keeping in mind that not all sessions are hell to leather and hard work- some are taking the foot off the accelerator today, for recovery and progress tomorrow.
Try to remember that again, progress isn’t always linear on a day to day basis- if you are going to see linear progress anywhere it would be when you look at the program over a month to month basis.
When is muscle soreness not ideal?
While muscle soreness isn’t inherently bad for a day or two other than the pain you experience- it is when it liners for four, five or more days. Rather than suggesting you’ve done a really good workout- it’s much more likely you have gone way too hard for your body on that particular day.
Hard work is great- as a trainer we admire hard work more than most. Smart work is better. There is no need to literally kill yourself in the gym- again, remember- long term is where we look for linear progress and the accompanying results.