Best Workouts for When You’re Sore

Your plan was to hit the gym today. When you woke up and rolled out of bed you felt every sore muscle in your body- ok extra store. Your muscles feel tight,  but you still want to get some exercise. You are definitely too sore to follow your normal routine, and if you are this sore should you work out? Research has shown that it’s not only safe to workout while sore, but with the right type of workout you can reduce your soreness and speed up recovery. The better you recover, the harder you can train the next time and the better your results will be. 

Soreness is a result of putting your muscles through more stress than they’re used to, like lifting heavier weights or doing more reps. It’s a signal from your body that it needs some time to recoup before the next round. Ignoring that signal and pushing on as normal leads to overtraining, burnout and injury. Generally, you should avoid training the same muscle groups on back-to-back days, two to three days rest in between is ideal. 

To reduce soreness, recover faster and still get a workout in there are a few beneficial things to do. First, you need to increase blood flow to your muscles. Better blood flow means more nutrients get to your muscles and waste (Like lactic acid) is removed faster. Second, as muscles go through intense contractions they tend to get tight, limiting the range of motion so mobilization is a must while you exercise. Keep on moving! Low intensity cardio, foam rolling and stretching are the key ingredients of recovery while still getting in some movement.

The Workout

Low Intensity Cardio: Pick your favorite cardio machine and get moving for 10-20 minutes. It’s important not to get carried away and start sprinting. Raise your heart rate only to the point where you can still speak a whole sentence but need a breath afterwards. For most, this means keeping your max heart rate under 60% . You can get a rough estimate by using this formula: (220 – Your Age) x 0.60. For example, a 40 year old would calculate to 108 beats per minute. Raising your heart rate and getting your body moving helps circulate nutrients throughout your body, remember the key is not ramping up intensity or doing HIIT.

Foam Rolling: Self-myofascial release (SMR) or foam rolling, is a proven method to reduce soreness and tightness in muscles. This self-massage technique improves blood flow to muscles. When rolling, aim to move about 1 inch per second, this tempo is slow enough to send a signal to the nervous system that it’s ok to relax that muscle. A more relaxed muscle is more effective and easier to stretch. Think of it as untying a knot in a rope; you get more out of the rope. 

 : Yoga, static stretching and dynamic stretching perfectly compliment foam rolling. This will restore flexibility to your muscles and help reduce soreness. If holding static stretches (30-60 seconds) isn’t your thing, try following a few yoga sequences. Or, if you’re itching for inspiration and guidance, hop into one of our YouGX yoga classes.

Cardio Round 2: Finish off your workout by adding in another 10 minutes of light cardio. This time you can either pick your favorite piece of cardio equipment or do a lightweight full body circuit. For example, try completing 5 rounds of bodyweight squats, standing cable rows, planks and Russian twists. As long as the weight is light and intensity is done this circuit will give you a safe, easy sweat that fights off soreness. 

Next time you’re feeling super sore, you now have a plan to fight soreness and speed up your recovery. Take a customized approach to your recovery and training by talking to one of our certified YouCoach personal trainers.

By Raphael Konforti, National Head of Fitness Education