Is It Normal to Be Sore After A Workout?
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image by ericmcgregor

There is a theory that states adherence to an exercise program can be predicted by three things:

  • Level of social support
  • Self management skills
  • Ability to tolerate discomfort

The first two can take some time to figure out. Initially people are supportive of your fitness journey. It’s only after a few weeks that you find out if you can truly count on your new workout partner to be at the gym at 6 a.m. or trust your cubicle mate not to bring you donuts for breakfast. Enthusiasm can mask a lack of self-regulation in the beginning. When the newness wears off the absence of self-management skills start to appear.

Ability to tolerate discomfort, however, is discovered pretty quickly.

After returning to or starting an exercise program, you will hear people say one of two things:

  1. Wow, I can feel that workout. I know I worked hard and it feels good.
  2. Wow, I can feel that workout. I can hardly walk. It hurts!! I am not doing that again.

The problem is DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is a normal part of the fitness journey.  It’s a normal response to a new strain put on the muscle, the small micro tears and the resulting inflammation. Feeling a little sore for a day or two after a new workout is normal.

But for someone to keep exercising it’s important to make sure it doesn’t hurt so much that it pushes that person to response 2 versus response 1. A workout should never hurt so bad that you really can’t get out of bed. You should feel good after the workout, whether that’s right after or two days later when you’re ready to go at it again.

To keep DOMS manageable, and increase your chances of sticking to a fitness program, keep these things in mind:

  • If you’re a beginner, start at a beginner level. Don’t let enthusiasm or ego sign you up for the most insane or intense program you can find on day 1.
  • Start with 1 set of exercises, mostly using your own bodyweight or light weights. Give your body a chance to get used to the new movements.
  • Make sure stretching is a part of your workout. Everyone forgets to stretch even though it can be one of the most enjoyable parts of the workout. I recommend foam rolling and static stretching at the end of every workout.
  • Get up and move the next day. Yes, you may be sore but movement encourages circulation, which actually make your muscles feel better. Don’t work the same muscles in the same way the next day, however. Do cardio the next day if you did a full body weight workout, for example.

If you still pushed too far, just follow these tips and learn from experience. Take it down just a notch or two for your next workout. The good news is consistency counts and with each workout the DOMS should minimize or disappear. At least until you change your workout out.

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