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Can You Exercise When You Are Sore?

by Alexandra Parren

workout sore muscles 

If you're on a roll with your training or on a plan for a specific event, sometimes it's tempting to train even when your muscles are sore and achy. We look at whether it's a good idea to still train when you are sore.

Are sore muscles a good sign?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, is common among those who exercise regularly and is nothing to shy away from. Especially if you have recently increased your training intensity/frequency or you are a complete beginner to exercise, you can expect DOMS to last up to 72 hours after your workout. 

Our muscles feel sore after a workout because when we train, we develop tiny 'satellite' tears in the muscles. Your muscles get stronger not when you exercise but afterwards, when you are eating and sleeping. This is why consuming enough protein and getting good quality sleep are both key to recovery and improving performance. 

Sore muscles are a sign that you have worked hard and that your muscles are on their way to becoming stronger and more efficient. If your DOMS lasts over 72 hours, however, it's time to look at what you might be doing wrong. Perhaps you're not resting enough or not eating enough/the right nutrients. Once your body gets used to a certain training regime, you will find you don't get DOMS as often, if at all, which can be a signal it's time to crank up the intensity or change up your routine. 

Read more: Are You Overtraining?

Read more: How Often Should I Take A Complete Rest Day?

Read more: Fitness Recovery And The Importance Of Rest Days

achy sore muscles pain relief

Is it OK to work out if your muscles are sore?

In general, it is a bad idea to workout if your muscles are sore. Your muscles need time to repair and grow and it is only while you are resting that this can happen. However, this is not to say you cannot train at all.

If you train certain body parts at a time, you can easily train a different part of your body that is not aching that day. For example, if your chest and triceps are aching, you could still do a leg workout. 

If you practise a sport that focuses mostly on one muscle group such as running or cycling, there are still ways to get around skipping workouts. You could do your speed session on a Monday, followed by a hill session on a Tuesday and then rest on Wednesday. Then, you could do another speed session Thursday, a gym workout Friday, and your long run on Saturday with another rest day on Sunday. This sort of plan allows your legs to rest after the toughest sessions when they are most likely to ache. 

In another sense, sometimes it's actually a good idea to train when your muscles are sore. Many runners will do a 'recovery run' the day after a particularly tough training session, which means doing a short and easy run to shake out any lactic acid still sitting in the legs and keeping active to stop your legs getting too stiff. 

In summary, it's only bad to do an intense or tough workout when your muscles are sore. It can actually be beneficial to do a light workout to ease achy muscles.

Read more: DOMS Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Read more: How To Reduce DOMS In The Legs

running recovery training DOMS

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