You know that feeling after you’ve trudged through a tough workout and your muscles hurt? That pain is natural and is caused by a release of lactic acid in the muscle. Sometimes that pain doesn’t go away the next day and you’re left wondering whether it’s worth it hit the gym again.
There are some factors that help determine whether it is best to take the day off or get right back to it. It’s always important to figure out which category you fall into.
Take a Break, or Stick it Out?
Evaluate how severe the soreness really is. Is it my legs hurt when I walk bad, or I can’t get out of my chair bad. For the latter, sit out a day or two. If you’re in so much pain that you can’t get out of a chair, how do you expect to be able to perform a squat or lunge correctly? If your goal is to continue to progress, it’s much better to have rest day than to be out of commission because you injured yourself from fitness overload. Listen to your body. And keep in mind, a little soreness is bound to happen.
If you’re in pain 12–36 hours after a workout, you may be experiencing “delayed onset muscle soreness” and you most definitely need to give your body a break. It deserves it. It’s been working hard. It’s good to be aware that it’s not the stress on your muscles that makes you stronger, it’s when the muscle are repaired that you see results. When your body takes the time to repair itself, that’s when you’ll see the difference in your body composition.
If you are just uncomfortable walking up stairs or just feel the pain when you stretch your arms a certain way, you don’t need to be a baby. In fact, a light workout of the same muscles that are sore can help to increase circulation of the lactic acid and release the tension in the muscles. Definitely, don’t repeat the same, intense workout you previously did. You wouldn’t want to lift heavy, train extreme, or do crazy cardio, but you can still put in a decent workout.
A benefit of still putting in a workout, even if its just light, is that you are forming a habit. For some people, taking a couple of days off can easily turn into a week off, then two and before they know it, they’re back at the beginning. If this sounds like you, stay committed to your goals, hit the gym, but take it easy. A light workout is better than no workout.
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