Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Must you feel sore after every workout?

So you felt intense muscle soreness upon your initial workouts, lasting up to days but over time you felt less and less sore. Does that mean your workouts aren't effective anymore? Do you feel that you didn't have as good of a workout on some days because you don't have that crippling soreness you first felt? People seem to equate muscle soreness to an effective workout and if you're one of those people, this is why you shouldn't.

Muscle soreness is NOT, I repeat, is NOT an indicator of a good workout. Sore muscles the day after does not mean you had an effective workout or productive workout or a results-causing workout. Therefore, NOT being sore the day after doesn't mean your workout was bad, or ineffective, or unproductive, or useless. As far as effectiveness, muscle soreness means nothing.

So then, what's the deal? How come you only get sore some times and not others? How come you used to get sore every time, but now you hardly ever do? Well, it's all pretty simple. Muscle soreness usually occurs when you make your muscles do something that they just aren't used to doing. For example, when you first started working out, that was very likely when you experienced the most soreness. Forget the next day... you were probably sore for the entire next week! But then as your body gradually gets more accustomed to what you're doing, your body gradually experiences less and less muscle soreness until it reaches the point where you are barely sore or even not sore at all anymore the day(s) after a workout.

But this only explains the "why was I sore then, but not now" question. What about the "why was I sore after this bootcamp workout, but not my last 10 bootcamp workouts" question?

Muscle soreness in the day or days following a workout is caused by your muscles having to do something they aren't used to doing.

If all you've been doing is running, yoga, biking, swimming, etc and never did strength training, plyometrics, calisthenics or kettlebells. All of a sudden you're subjecting your body to something different, you can't move the next few days!
Was it because this workout or these exercises were better or more effective in some way? Not at all. It was only because you changed something (in this case exercises), and in doing so you caused your body to do something it wasn't used to doing. This is what would cause muscle soreness.

In time, it's very possible that this new workout may not cause you to be sore just like the original workout did. Is it not longer effective? Of course not... it's just that your body has become more and more used to doing it. It's not just changing exercises that may cause the muscles to be sore. It can be a change in the way you did the same exercises. Did you do more reps? Or maybe lift more weight? Were you on the treadmill or bike longer than last time? Did you increase intensity? Any of the above could be enough to cause muscle soreness the next day.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some people just get sore after certain workouts (no matter how long they've done them) and never get sore after others. For example, my back is always sore for the 2 days following a back workout. My legs? sometimes. My abs? Always. My shoulders? hardly, if anything. Sometimes if I change something I still don't get sore. However, my progress is just fine. Muscle soreness or not, my results are just the same.

So, no... muscle soreness is in no way an indicator of a good or bad workout. If anything, it may just indicate you did something different in some way. Use a scale, a mirror, pictures, tape measure and/or workout log to judge whether or not what you're doing is actually working. Use muscle soreness as an excuse not to have to take out the garbage.

The real results in terms of toning and weight loss comes from the consistency of a good program and proper nutrition. You can work out until you're blue in the face, even overtraining, but that's no indicator of weight loss or building lean muscle mass to burn more calories.

Nutrition is key in changing your physique. The exercise just accelerates your result. Yes, you must shock your body from time to time so you don't plateau. At the same time, discipline in clean eating and cutting out the alochol will make a huge difference.

Cindy Lai Fitness

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