Virtually anyone who has spent any time working out knows that there are several kinds of sore that you can encounter during or after a workout….I’ve experienced so many in the last three years, and as I get to know my body better, I’m able to figure out how to address each of them.
- “Oh Shit, I Just Hurt Something” This is not just soreness – this is pain. This is injury. It’s often sharp and frequently debilitating. You can get it in a workout, or you can get it later. My most vivid experience with this was during what I call the Great Kettlebell Incident of 2011. That was a workout in which I had to do 5 sets of 20 heavy-ish kettlebell swings. I did 99 of these swings without incident, and on the last one felt a pain shoot up my back. This is the type of pain where you stop what you are doing IMMEDIATELY and if your trainer bitches about it, you tell him to go pound sand. If he insists you keep going with the exercise, you fire him. This is not to be trifled with.
- “I Didn’t Know I Had That Muscle” This is the sore you get when you are doing something new that uses muscles you rarely work. I’ve gotten this one the most in Pilates Reformer, when I work stabilizing muscles that don’t get much action in my other workouts. When I first started doing Reformer, the arches of my feet and my lower calves had this sore a lot. This sore can happen during the workout, immediately after the workout, or in some cases, a day or so later (like other muscle soreness).
- “I Can’t Wash My Hair/I Can’t Get Off The Toilet” This is the sore you get when you have overworked muscles in a workout, usually lifting heavy things, and you simply didn’t have the muscle endurance to survive the workout unscathed. When you overdo it on the upper body, it’s the I Can’t Wash My Hair sore, and when you overdo it on your legs/lower body, you get I Can’t Get Off The Toilet sore. I’ve had I Can’t Wash My Hair sore more often – indeed, I named this type of sore based on a workout I had with my first trainer, Carissa, where I literally couldn’t lift my arms over my head immediately after the workout. I went to work with my hair dirty that day. There is also a version called “I Can’t Roll Over In Bed” which can happen when you overwork your core. I’ve had that one too.
- The Four Day Sore: This is a lot like the soreness you would expect to set in a day or so after a weight training session, only it lasts longer. For me, a normal bout of post-lifting soreness starts 24-36 hours after the workout, and lasts for about 24-36 hours. This is just dandy, and totally expected. But the Four Day Sore is the one where you are still hobbling around or wearing button up shirts so you don’t have to raise your arms too much four days later. When I was training for my half-marathon last year, I would remind my coach Brian what was on my training schedule outside our sessions and sometimes would request that he refrain from doing things that would cause The Four Day Sore so I wouldn’t mess up my long runs.
One of the things that I had to recognize when I started working out a lot is that all of these types of soreness/pain are normal if you are committed to your fitness. You don’t want to have any of them very often because you it means you are overdoing things, but you also don’t want to *never* have any of them because you need to be sure you are continuing to challenge yourself. Even the Oh Shit, I Just Hurt Something pain is something you need to experience on rare occasions, because injuries are part of being an athlete and living in fear of them, especially if you live in fear of even minor injuries, will impede your progress. (I know, because I struggle with this and it has held me back. But that’s another blog post). All of these types of soreness can help lead you down the path to fitness and improved athleticism, performance, and strength. And when you are on that path, you get to experience the best kind of sore.
- Hurts So Good: This is the holy grail of workout soreness. This is the sore that doesn’t just tell you that you worked out. It tells you that you did your exercises, you did them correctly, and you did exactly enough weight/reps/whatever other measure the exercise scaled by to MATTER. I got this one last week after working some upper body stuff 2 days in a row. Tuesday, I went to our Mechanics and Mobility class where we worked on Thruster technique. We worked with 15 pound technique bars and 12 pound wall balls, and I have never felt better about my Thruster execution. The squat was in my heels, my acceleration through the move was good, and I had a lovely active shoulder at the end. The next day, we worked on Push Jerks, which I also did very well at and got a 10 pound PR on. Thursday and Friday, my back felt so deliciously sore – it was a reminder of the progress I’ve made and how much strength I have added to my upper body in the last couple of months.
In my 3 years of working out, I can honestly say that I’ve only had Hurts So Good sore a handful of times, but I relish it. It’s wonderful. And as I get better and better, I’m hoping I can make it happen more often.