“Oh, man – am I feeling it today!” How many times have you said these words, almost proudly, the day after a particularly difficult workout? We sometimes feel like our sore muscles are “proof” that we really did exercise hard. But what about when you bust it out at the studio or on a strenuous hike, and you feel just fine? Do you feel like you didn’t give it your all? Do you feel a little cheated? Self-chastise no more, friend. Below is the real truth about muscle soreness, and how to gauge whether your workout was an effective one:
- No pain, no gain? Not necessarily. Think about it - you might feel ridiculously sore after doing something non-strenuous, like playing air hockey or going off the diving board. Then, a week later when you kill it during a sprinting session, your muscles don’t even feel fazed. You know that your swan-dives weren’t a bigger or better workout than your sprints, so what gives? It turns out that are muscles are sensitive to doing new-to-them tasks. So when you do something you don’t often do, or do something just a little bit differently, different muscles will kick in to help, and possibly lead to soreness. Your workouts may be plenty strenuous, but your body has just gotten better at adapting to them.
- And yet, some workouts might still make you sore, regardless. Weight exercises that include a stretching element, such as dumbbell flies for your chest, will more often produce soreness because of their very nature.
- All that being said . . . muscles that are pushed outside their comfort zone develop microscopic tears, and as they heal they adapt and grow stronger (with us feeling sore all the while). And this is a good thing – it’s how we get stronger. The key here is balance. Feeling extremely sore after nearly every workout probably means you’re pushing it too hard. Excessively working out to the point of major muscle soreness each and every time you work out will likely delay you from reaching your fitness goals. However, gradually challenging yourself with new and harder tasks will keep your muscles growing and your fitness improving. (The good news? Your fitness coaches at the FIT 36 studios are all over this. Each HIIT workout is designed to strike the workout sweet spot somewhere between “hello, plateauville” and “I won’t be able to move my arms for the next 4 days.”)
Two other effective tools for measuring the effectiveness of your workouts: heart rate and progress. Can you do more squats, hang in there easier for the whole 36 minutes, and curl more weight than you could six months ago? That’s progress proof right there. Consider keeping a log of what you’re able to do today, and then check it in four to six months and see if there’s improvement.
And with your heart rate, are you pushing yourself during your workouts enough to get your heart rate properly elevated? Again, the FIT 36 coaches can help you identify your target heart rate, and they can definitely help get you there.
Sure, muscle soreness is a sign that your muscles were given a task that was taxing to them, BUT, there’s more to workout success than groaning every time you lower yourself into a chair. Your mood, your energy levels, the progress you’ve made, and your lowered stress level are all great indicators that your workouts are improving your life. We’ll help you become fit in many ways, and yes, some soreness will be included.