I get asked about recovery all the time – usually in this form of question: “How do I recover faster so I’m not so sore?”
You can do all kinds of things to affect your recovery – sleep more, eat more, do your mobility, do active recovery, etc. Just about every single coach or trainer will tell you those things.
But the #1 best piece of advice that is not said NEARLY enough is stupefyingly simple: STOP GETTING SO SORE.
How Long Should I be Sore?
You should only be sore for a max of 48-72 hours after training, after which you should feel fantastic again. So often people exercise and think the point is to get as sore as possible, and it’s not: the point is to get fitter. And you can get fitter in many ways, like Getting Fitter Friends, or not getting too sore.
Doesn’t More Soreness = More Fitness?
No. You don’t get fitter from getting sore, and you certainly don’t get more fit the more sore you get.
Soreness is indicative of muscular damage. We need some muscular damage to trigger growth, but contrary to popular belief, the benefits of muscular damage stop at moderate soreness. After that, the best case scenario is you are staying the same, worst case scenario you are getting worse.
We want to get just sore enough to maximize our body’s ability to recover and create the change we want. If you are constantly beating your body into the dirt, it doesn’t get the chance to grow.
And think about this: If you regularly train and get sore for 5+ days each time, you either 1) only workout once or twice per week, which is not enough, or 2) you are NEVER recovered, meaning never getting better.
We need to be at a recovery surplus – that’s when we feel amazing, are only ever moderately sore, making consistent gains in the gym and all aspects of life are enhanced by training. Not at a recovery deficit – when you feel so sore you can’t move, you don’t want to train, and you make small improvements at best.
But, “My Trainer Tells Me What to do.”
If you work out at a gym with group sessions or a personal trainer and get sore from 5, 6, 7+ days, stop. Explain to the coach/trainer that you’re getting too sore and that it is taking you too long to recover. If they understand, then you can keep working out there.
If they try and chastise you for saying you get too sore or make clear they enjoy making you that sore, fire them immediately.They are doing it wrong, and as a result, so are you. It does not benefit you: it slows down your progress and interrupts your life. Exercising is not supposed to do that. It’s supposed to enhance your life.
But, “I love really being sore – it makes me feel like I did something”.
If you enjoy making yourself that sore as a sort of badge of honor, well, that’s all you’re getting: a badge of honor when you could be maximizing your results. Really think about that: you love being sore so much you don’t even want results. That doesn’t make sense. We have limited time on earth. We shouldn’t spend it in pain AND not be getting the best results possible. We exercise for a result and we need to maximize that result.
Is it Ever OK to be “too” Sore?
Being ” too sore” is any soreness that lasts for more than 48-72 hours and/or is painful and alters your life more than slightly.
There are only two times it’s ok to be “very” or “extremely” sore:
1) When you have just started a new program. It can be unavoidable, even if you have a trainer/coach/program that is very conservative. That should stop in about 2 weeks of training.
2) If you are very fit and very experienced and you did a competition.
If you are too sore any other time, you wasted time and put yourself and your results at risk.
Pay Attention and Get Sore On Purpose
The goal needs to be to get only as sore as necessary to maximize our results: sore enough that we improve, but that we recover fast enough to workout 3-5 days per week.
We need to do our training in such a way that we can control how sore we get. Working out less, using less weight, and working out for a shorter period of time are great ways to accomplish this.
Pay attention to what you’re doing while you do it and make note of how sore it makes you later so you can learn to adjust your training to be the most productive.
Before you start trying to comb the earth for every secret to recovery, FIRST make sure you are not getting too sore. I guarantee that piece alone solves about 70% of functional fitness enthusiasts’ recovery problems. The other 30% likely need more food, water, and sleep. More on that later.
It’s Different at Parkside CrossFit
We take an evidence based approach to soreness. We don’t ever want you to be “too sore” or “painfully sore” – unless it’s your only wish – and even then we wouldn’t recommend it!
Thanks for reading!
To learn more about how we can help you on your fitness journey, click here to set up a Free Intro and follow Parkside CrossFit @parksidecrossfit and owners Connor Green @connorgreen24 and Pamela Matew @pambition.