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Question: I'm still sore from yesterday's workout. My boyfriend says that to continue building muscle, I should keep working out until the soreness goes away. I say it's more beneficial to take a day of rest and then workout tomorrow. Who's right?

Expert Answer:

First of all, are you sore from strength training, or from cardio? Are you new to either of these types of exercise? It's common for beginners to experience muscle soreness that lasts for a week or two. Yes, you should keep working out even though you are sore, but your boyfriend isn't exactly right in what he is telling you.

Muscle soreness has two primary causes. The first soreness you experience happens during your workout ("the burn") and should subside within a couple of hours. This is caused by lactic acid production. When you are training and your muscles are not getting enough oxygen (anaerobic glycolysis), lactic acid builds up. You can break down lactic acid by continuing to move and by doing light aerobic exercise (such as walking) after your workout. This is why cool-downs are so important, especially for beginners. The longer you cool down, the faster that lactic acid will be broken up and removed from the body.

The type of muscle soreness you are experiencing, up to a day or two (and sometimes even three) after your workout is known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). DOMS is caused by microscopic tears inside the muscles, resulting from weight-training or fully exhausting the muscles during cardio. This is normal. Again, beginners will be more sore and usually for longer, but if you really worked as hard as you should have during a weight-lifting session, you should be somewhat sore for the next day or two.

This is where rest comes in. You absolutely must rest the muscles you worked for 1-2 days after a workout. So, if your boyfriend meant that you need to keep lifting anyway, he was wrong. Take at least one day off between sessions, and if you are still very sore, take 2 days off. (This means from lifting, not from all exercise such as cardio). If you don't let your muscles recover and repair, they will continue to break down and you will actually get weaker.

To help prevent soreness in the future, and alleviate some of it now, be sure to: 1. Always warm-up for 5-10 minutes and cool-down for at least 5 minutes 2. STRETCH!! Stretch after a warm-up, during your workout, and after you are done. Only stretch when your muscles are already warm from some kind of light activity. 3. Stay active. The more your muscles move, the faster they remove that lactic acid build-up. 4. Have your boyfriend give you a massage for all of the hard work you put in at the gym.

Exercise Extra: Research shows that engaging in lower intensity exercise after a strenuous workout session may be more beneficial than resting completely.

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Thanks for this article, Jann! So timely too, since I just started a beginner running program yesterday and I'm sore today. I'm supposed to walk at a leisurely pace today and pick up the running again tomorrow. It makes perfect sense when I read the article that you should rest or do something less strenuous every other day.

I'm trying to work up to running for 30 continuous minutes. The plan takes 10 weeks to achieve, so I need all the luck I can muster up....I'm so NOT a runner!

Denise

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Thanks for this article, Jann! So timely too, since I just started a beginner running program yesterday and I'm sore today. I'm supposed to walk at a leisurely pace today and pick up the running again tomorrow. It makes perfect sense when I read the article that you should rest or do something less strenuous every other day.

I'm trying to work up to running for 30 continuous minutes. The plan takes 10 weeks to achieve, so I need all the luck I can muster up....I'm so NOT a runner!

Denise

Look at you go! Nice one, Denise! I started with walking, went to brisk walking, up to advanced walking with weights and have jogged twice! Running is not my friend or should I say never used to be. I've never even ran for a bus! My program also integrates jogging and when I'm doing it I'm like, 'Whoa, is that really me doing that? HELL YA!'

Kudos to you for getting right to it! You are braver than me out of the gate, that's for sure! hehe.

Hugs!

Jann

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Well here's my 2¢

When you workout, there's few schools of thought. Work out a muscle group regularly, or working a muscle group out to exhaustion, and finally negative resistance.

Regular working out, would be someone who runs every day. Thus working out the same muscle groups daily.

Exhaustion, basically doing enough sets so that by the time you do your last set, you have to struggle with help.

Negative resistance is an extension of the 2nd. You do your reps to exhaustion, then have your partner lift the weight for you, and then you do the negtive side of the rep. i.e. a bench press the idea is to lift the weight from your chest. The negative would be starting from the extended position, and slowly LOWER the weight to your chest. Then your partner lifts it back up for you. (these must be done with a spotter, fyi).

Examples 2 and 3 require a day's rest between focusing on those muscle groups, but you should stretch them out. If you try to exercise a muscle group too soon, you risk insertion tears (where the muscle inserts into the bone), and origin strains (where the muscle originates.) This is why they often work different muscle groups on different days.

A word on supplements, in all honesty, they're 100% quackery. (generally speaking). Your body can only absorb so much at any given time, so to load up on protein, amino acids, and "other", does little good. However, our case is a little different, whereas we can only consume so much at any given time. Eating a balanced meal gives you the proper ratio of proteins to bodily digestive processes, but because we can't consume a "full" meal, we might see some benefit from supplements, albeit a limited benefit.

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