Movement is a very personal experience. So when our members ask us “is it a good idea working out while sore?”, our quick answer usually is: if the soreness doesn’t pass after your warm-up, it’s not a good idea to work out.
But that answer also depends on the person, situation, goals, and particular pain at hand. Firstly, it helps to know the reason behind your aching muscles — so you can decide whether exercising with soreness is safe.
You know the feeling. You’ve returned to physical activity after a break or hit the gym harder than usual. Around a day to three days afterwards, you know what you will wake up with. Ouch.
What you’re experiencing here is DOMS: delayed onset muscle soreness.
The stiffness and pain you feel are caused by tiny tears in your muscle tissue. Your body is a miracle machine — it’ll get straight to work repairing these shreds and inflammation. In the process, your muscles will grow back bigger and stronger. But — like all good things in life — they need time.
The first factor to consider is how bad the pain is.
Most of us know our own bodies enough to feel if something isn’t right, or if it’s just DOMS (which is completely normal).
If the pain is in your actual joints (like, bending over and hearing your knee crack) seek advice from a medical professional before you workout again. The only pain you should feel is in your muscles. Anything else and it could be an injury or lead to one. If you keep feeling pain to the point of being unable to walk upstairs or squat down, consider changing your routine.
If it’s possible to work through the soreness without grimacing, performing some aerobic exercises or lifting light weights will actually help soothe your muscles. The rise in body temperature will boost oxygen flow, delivering more nutrients to the torn muscles and flushing away toxins. Take it easy — this isn’t the time for intensity.
So long as there’s no actual injury involved, you don’t have to skip a workout just because your muscles are sore to touch. The key to physical fitness is consistency and the best way to maintain training is to exercise another muscle group instead of the one that’s sore.
For example, if you’ve woken up with that pesky bicep burn and can’t perform the full range of motion to work out, you can still exercise that day. Just tweak your training routine to focus on another area, such as your legs. If you try to force yourself through pain, you won’t have the most efficient workout anyway.
The bottom line is, even if you’re super sore, you don’t have to wait until you’re not before training again. Working out while sore is advisable sometimes, in some others you should rest and recover. It’s ultimately up to you.