Feeling Sore Doesn’t = BETTER!

Whether you’re new to exercise, or, been consistently exercising for years, you know that feeling: muscle soreness!

Heck, after a long day of yard work, gardening, shoveling snow or playing with your kids / grandkids, you can relate to feeling sore.

As coaches, we often hear “I am SO sore from yesterday’s workout!”WOW, that was THE BEST workout EVER – I am so sore!”

So, what exactly is muscle soreness? And, if you don’t get sore after a workout, does that mean you didn’t work hard enough? The workout wasn’t “good”?!

This is the second blog of a two-part series on how to gauge the effectiveness of your workouts so that you can improve your health and maximize your results!

Why is this important? When it comes to fitness, some of the biggest misconceptions is that sweat and soreness are the best indicators of a good (or bad) workout. If you aren’t drenched, your workout was useless. If you’re not sore, you didn’t work hard enough.

In today’s blog, you are learning:

  • Why muscles get sore.

  • Why you won’t always feel sore.

  • Why being sore does NOT = the best workout!

  • Tips to control + reduce soreness.


Delayed onset muscle soreness, “DOMS”, is a sore, aching, painful, feeling in the muscles after unfamiliar, unaccustomed and intense exercise. Typically, the onset begins 8 to 48 hours post exercising.

It’s a common myth soreness is caused from lactic acid that’s built up and trapped but that is not true.

So what is responsible for DOMS? How does it happen?

If you’re new to exercising, you may experience more frequent levels of soreness – here’s why:

Whenever your body moves in a way it’s not used to, tiny microtears in the muscle fibers occur.  Have NO fear – this is exactly what is supposed to happen with exercise as it allows your muscles to first, heal and second, grow so that you can get stronger! When you are new to exercise, this feeling can persist anywhere from a few days up to 2 weeks.

Comparatively, if you’ve been consistently exercising, your soreness level will vary based on the workout program – here’s why:

Let’s say it is week one of a brand-new workout program and as a result, you’re feeling extra sore. That’s normal and to be expected while performing new exercises/movements targeting different muscle groups. Fast forward to week six of the same program and uh, oh – you’re not as sore!

Does that mean you’re not working hard enough, your body has “adapted” and the program’s no longer effective?

Of course not! It means your muscles are getting accustomed to movement patterns and load (the weights being used) as you progress through the program. During week one, there were all those micro-tears in the muscle fibers causing you to be sore. BUT, once healed, the fibers grow back stronger; making the muscles more ready and prepared to bear same or more weight! This process allows you to gradually increase the weight being used = progress = results! If and when going up in weights, you may feel sore as a result of additional strain and tears on the muscles. Again, a good thing!

While soreness can definitely hurt so good and act as a “feedback tool” from a workout, soreness and sweating are not the make or break when gauging a high-quality, highly effective workout.  Exercising is a beautiful science, and here at Results Fitness, the focus is on designing the best, most effective workout so that you can achieve equally amazing results.

Those amazing results are NOT dependent on your level of soreness or beads of sweat. While you may think always being sore is a really good thing / indicator you’re going ALL OUT, getting the best workout there’s the truth:

If you’re muscles are always sore, your body CANNOT properly recover – and that isn’t a good thing!

When your muscles don’t have enough time to heal from the micro-tears talked about earlier, then you cannot improve! Your workout performance will suffer, your movement quality will suffer and together, these things mean you will not be able to increase output and workload: going up in weights, doing more reps, etc.

More importantly, being sore all the time can lead to bigger problems down the road.  When you experience DOMS, your regular movement pattern may be altered.  For example, maybe your lower body is sore so when you stand up, you do so in an awkward position to ease the pain.  Now imagine always feeling like that.  Chronic soreness doesn’t lead down a good path for growth of any kind.  If your muscles are not recovering properly, then you will lose the chance to improve and get stronger.  It will reduce range of motion and flexibility.

Constant muscle fatigue and soreness can leave you at a higher risk for injury as well.  On a muscular level, constant damage will leave the muscle and connective tissues weakened.  That muscular weakness can then potentially lead to bigger problems.  For example, if your legs are always sore, then you might lose your footing while stepping over something and twist an ankle!  It is very normal and expected to experience DOMS from time to time, but feeling constantly sore increases the risk for multiple, avoidable issues.


Just because you are sore, does not mean you need to be in pain! Here are 5 tips to reduce muscle soreness.

#1. Ice + Heat: Alternating between ice and heat can do great things for your muscles!

  • Ice: use what you have on hand – ice pack, bag of frozen vegetables or cold towel – to reduce inflammation and help relieve some of the pain and heat accompanying sore muscles.

  • Heat: most heat packs are affordable and reusable and if you’re active, are a good idea to have on standby! Hot showers, hot tubs or soaking in the bath are additional ways to apply heat.

  • Applying heat increases blood flow to the area which speeds up the recovery process. Heat is also effective for loosening up tight muscles. Hot showers or soaking

#2. Massages: Whether you visit your favorite masseuse or, grab a foam roller, massages are effective when dealing with muscle soreness!

  • With proper technique, a good massage can alleviate muscle tension and soreness. Plus, massages are relaxing and relieve stress.

#3. Stretch: underused and underestimated but super important! Any type of stretching is a good way to relax stiff or tight muscles. You can alternate between dynamic stretching or static stretching:

  • Dynamic stretching: moving for the sake of stretching out muscles. Examples include spiderman lunges, inchworms, arm circles, Frankenstein kicks, etc.

  • Static stretching: holding a position so you can target specific muscle groups. Examples include holding a downward dog pose, a child’s pose and reaching forwards.

#4. Movement: It may feel counter intuitive but when you’re sore, it’s always best to get moving (again) the next day!  It’s a common misconception that when sore, you should avoid activity/exercise until the soreness subsides and you’re ‘back to normal’. However, this is usually not the case.  Moving the following day helps recruit more blood to your muscles so they can heal faster.  If/when sore, perhaps you don’t go as hard the next day but you can and should absolutely exercise and move.

  • Exercise: let’s say Monday’s workout is all legs and by Tuesday, you are feeling it!  In that case, focus on different muscle groups like arms or back to give your legs rest and recovery time.

  • Walk: another great way to get moving is walking!  Now that it’s finally summer, getting outside and walking around the block or park trail i a great way to score your steps, move your body, enjoy some sunshine/ Vitamin D and help your body recover!

  • Warm-up: don’t underestimate the warm-up as it does wonders! Aim to do a dynamic warm-up where you are physically moving to prepare for the workout. Examples include sprints, high knees, butt kickers, jumping jacks, etc. Dynamic warm-ups involve several different muscles and increase the flow of oxygenated blood to those active muscles.

#5. Proper Nutrition: It cannot be stressed enough how important nutrition is, and Coach Amie will agree!  Not just for promoting muscle recovery post workout but crucial for improving quality of life. It’s true what they say – you are what you eat and your diet will affect your workout performance, energy levels, mindset, mood, and sleep cycles. You always want to be properly fueled:

  • Studies show eating carbohydrates about 1 to 2 hours before any workout provides your body enough nutrients and energy to power through a workout. Examples include fruits, sprouted grains, oats, quinoa and potatos.

  • Eating protein about 30 minutes to 2 hours after a workout provides enough energy and nutrients to help your body and muscles recover properly. Examples of protein include, chicken, fish, pork, beef, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, and (whole) protein powders.

Now, you may be thinking – “Ok, ok, buuuuut…”

“I’ve been sore for 2 weeks, when will it end!”

Hearing this is music to my ears!  Long-term soreness is highly common when new to exercise or, you’ve taken time off. As you start a new workout program, it’s normal for your entire body to be sore; as yare working all of the muscles in your body, exerting a LOT of effort and usually adding weight /resistance on top of it all.  If you’re a brand to exercise/ Results Fitness or, your muscles will need time to adjust and heal.

When first starting, the first 2 weeks are commonly the hardest.  The good news is, as long as you are properly fueling yourself with quality food choices, stretching and staying active the next day, the muscle ache will fade.  Before you know it, you’ll be progressing through your workouts, getting stronger and feeling better.

“I haven’t felt sore since week 1 of the new program- am I still getting a good workout?”

This is a totally normal feeling and valid question!  Let’s envision yourself on Week 1, Day 1 of a new workout. You are performing a lateral squat with a 2 second pause.  If you’ve never done lateral squats, that means you are working a whole new group of muscles that haven’t been trained.

The next day, your hips/butt area feel sore; which means you worked the correct muscles, and those muscles can grow back stronger – that’s awesome!  By the time weeks 6, 7, and 8 roll around, you’re no longer sore because that same muscle group is now accustomed to the load and the movement pattern.  This is good because it means you have gotten stronger! This is a great indicator your workout program is working, you are progressing and, on your way to the very best results!

It is so important to understand why sweating and soreness are NOT the best tools for gauging an effective, successful workout.  Hopefully, this blog helped you get a deeper understanding of what muscle soreness is, why the body gets sore and practical tips to for managing soreness. If you have questions about soreness, your workouts or anything else, book your FREE Strategy Session now so that you can talk to one of our expert coaches!



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