No pain, only gains. Why you need to exercise smarter, not harder
We have all heard the term, "no pain, no gain" when referring to exercise. If you aren't sweaty, exhausted, and have Jell-O legs at the end of a workout, then you didn't work hard enough, right? Wrong.
That sore, tired, torn feeling we get in our muscles the day or days after a challenging work out is called DOMS, or delayed-onset muscle soreness. This is often where people believe they are making the most progress, physically.
True or false?
Soreness is due to lactic acid buildup in the muscles
Soreness is caused by microscopic tears in the muscles
Being sore after exercise means we are building muscles
if you work through the sore days , you will get better results.
Soreness is due to lactic acid build up:
False. DOMS can be a result of many different factors. Most commonly, the soreness and pain we feel is due to inflammation in our muscles and joints. The inflammation is part of our body's way of healing itself. In fact, lactic acid is not even a part of this process. Lactic acid is not a bad thing! Our muscles actually aren't storing lactic acid in them, they create something called lactate which our muscles use as fuel. It's a fairly complex process called the Cori Cycle.
To explain it simply: your body uses sugar, or glucose primarily for energy. This process uses oxygen, which is why we breathe. When you are working really hard, you begin to breathe faster, and at certain thresholds, your body has a hard time recruiting enough oxygen for this process. Without oxygen, the body has to break down glucose into lactate instead.
Interestingly enough, lactic acid isn't the only thing that causes that the burning sensation in our muscles. However, that burning feeling we get during a hard workout is a good thing.It's our body's way of protecting itself. It's your muscles' way of saying, "hey, I can't keep this up much longer" and this discomfort often causes us to stop. Pretty neat how our bodies keep us safe, huh?
There's tons more to talk about regarding metabolism-- I could do a whole post on lactate alone, but I need to address some other things first.
Bottom line: your muscles are not sore because of lactic acid.
I'm sore because of tiny tears in my muscles:
True... kind of. Every time you pick up a heavy weight and put it down, you aren't always tearing your muscles. The tiny tears you get are often from new movements more muscles aren't used to. This happens most commonly during eccentricmovements where you are lengthening the working muscle.
It's not the tears that are hurting you or making you feel sore. It's the inflammation a result of your muscles trying to heal themselves. Being sore means I'm building muscle:
False That soreness is your body repairing micro tears caused by new movements or too much stress. Your body may not be building more muscle, but just trying to repair the muscles you have hurt. One bout of soreness can provide benefit, but exercising frequently and actively seeking DOMS after exercise is not beneficial to creating more muscle long-term.
If I work through the soreness, I'll get stronger:
False, False, false! Pushing through the soreness does not make you some kind of superhero. There's tons of research out there describing the effects that DOMS has on performance. When you push through the pain, you are dramatically increasing your risk of injury. In fact, the National Strength and Conditioning Association actually classifies delayed onset muscle soreness as aninjury. When you continue to exercise while experiencing DOMS, you are at a higher risk of losing proper form, and pose a high risk of knee and spinal injuries. You also have decreased strength when you are sore, and decreased muscular endurance.
So... What now?
You now know that lactic acid isn't our enemy, that soreness can be an injury, and that tiny tears in your muscles aren't always a good thing.
Exercise does not have to be painful to be effective. After the first days beginning a program, you should not be experiencing DOMS frequently. If you are, that's your body telling you "please stop, I am doing too much." If you find yourself experiencing a lot of soreness, it is time for you to adjust your exercise program or contact a trainer who can help you design a more safe and effective program.
Have a question? Want to learn more about what programs would be best for you? Call Ageless Fitness for a free consultation with our trainer at (805) 845-7277 or send us a message through our contact page on our website.
Julie is the program director and head personal trainer at Ageless Fitness. She focuses on wellness and health education with her clients and encourages the process of creating programs to be individual and informative