It might be time to retire the old cliché, “no pain, no gain.” If you find yourself disappointed when an otherwise great workout doesn’t leave you hobbling and feeling sore the next day, you might be doing more harm than good to your body. While occasional soreness can be an indication that our workouts are effective and challenging, not every workout should hurt the next day.
- Maintaining fitness is as important as improving or increasing fitness. Stick to a normal routine to maintain fitness and add new workouts, weight, reps or speed a couple times each week to continue to build on your baseline. As your fitness level improves and your strength increases, it’s important to incorporate one or two days each week focused on maintaining your current fitness level. As your fitness improves gradually, listening to your body will tell you when it’s time to increase distance, pace or reps.
- Sore muscles heal during periods of recovery. While some recovery time is necessary in any fitness routine and healthy lifestyle, you don’t improve your fitness by spending more time in recovery than exercising. Slowly introducing your muscles to new types of workouts, or slowly and methodically adding time or reps to your workout ensures that your muscles grow stronger with minimal discomfort instead of debilitating soreness.
- Slow, consistent improvements are easier to maintain. You workout to feel good, right? In order to build a lifestyle of healthy habits, you have to let yourself actually enjoy the process. If every workout leaves you feeling lethargic, sore, and unable to move without significant pain, it’s going to be much harder to motivate yourself to build a consistent, lifelong exercise habit. Instead of trying to reach all of your fitness goals too quickly, set realistic goals for yourself and look for small signs of progress regularly. Don’t let sore muscles sideline your motivation and lead to injury. Instead, when your workouts begin to feel easy, try to stick to increasing your workout load by no more than ten percent. Try adding ten percent more time, distance, or weight to your current fitness baseline and let then let your body gradually adapt.
- Consider your muscles when you’re planning your meals. The healthiest lifestyles consist of a balance between healthy meals and healthy workouts. Certain foods promote healthy, strong muscles and will help your muscles adequately repair from a hard workout. Vigorous exercise creates tiny tears in your muscles and as those tears heal, the muscles grow back stronger and leaner than before. To help facilitate that healthy growth, make sure your diet includes enough protein. The Harvard School of Public Healthrecommends a minimum of 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams of protein for men. If you’re lifting weight or performing vigorous cardiovascular exercise, you may need even more. Adding hard boiled eggs, lean chicken, or beans to a post-workout salad can help you achieve your weight loss goals, reduce muscle soreness, and help you build leaner, stronger muscles.
What are your thoughts on soreness? Necessary or inconvenient?