As we age, it seems we become acutely aware of every ache and pain that comes our way. The hard part seems to be the ability to distinguish between muscle soreness and injury pain. We have been conditioned to believe that every little ache is something that should keep you from activity and that simply is not true. More than ever, continuing to move during bouts of muscle soreness is vitally important. It is true that as we age, our recovery time for intense exercise is a little longer, but don’t mistake that soreness for something that might keep you out of the gym. I found this article that has a pretty good chart describing the differences between muscle soreness and injury pain.
One of the most important things to be aware of is our body’s activity threshold. Learning how to work to increase that threshold is what increases your fitness. When you first started at the gym, a single round of “Cindy” (5 pull ups, 10 push ups and 15 air squats) probably caused you to dread washing your hair or trying to get out of a chair. Because you have continuously pushed your body just to its activity threshold (or slightly beyond!) for some time now, it probably takes at LEAST 5 rounds to get you to that same point.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is what most of us experience after an intense workout. It comes on about 24-36 hours after the exercise and actually benefits from activity. Rolling, stretching, and light activity involving the muscle group will actually do you good – it increases the blood flow, breaks up scar tissue and encourages healing. Even if you take a day off from the gym, make sure you move and do some kind of light activity. Sitting around doing nothing will actually make you feel worse. DOMS are not a reason to take the week off from the gym, in fact, you will never increase your activity threshold if you don’t work through some of the soreness.
If you experience sharp, acute pain DURING your workout, and it does not subside as you continue, you need to stop what you are doing. This could be a muscle strain or other injury that will NOT benefit from continued use. If your coach asks you if you are ok, please answer NO, stop the activity, and get some ice. This is the type of pain that does not get better with muscle use and means you may need to be evaluated by a health care professional or at the very minimum, take a few days off to evaluate the pain.
If you are just starting on your fitness journey and you have never experienced the two types (soreness vs. pain), please ask your coach anytime you are unsure about whether you should continue the activity or not. He/she can help you determine whether it is something to worry about or not. As you learn to be more aware of your body’s reaction to exercise, you will be able to make that determination yourself and will find more often than not, that working through a little soreness can help you make some big gains in the gym.
Front Squat or Back Squat
Work up to a 5 rep Max
3 x 500m Row