For many, the feeling of soreness after a workout can provide a sense of accomplishment, making you feel like you really pushed yourself. While the feeling may be enjoyable, soreness is not an indicator of progress or the effectiveness of a workout.
What is soreness?
Soreness comes from damage to muscle tissue caused by stress and overload. To put it another way, do more than your body is currently used to and you’ll end up sore. A long walk after a few weeks without exercise can cause muscle soreness, but few would call that a good workout.
This may sound bad, but it can be a good thing! Overloading the body is important for making progress, and at some point you have to push beyond your current ability level. The other side to this overload picture is adaptation, which is what happens when the body “catches up” and gets used to what you are asking of it.
For a better understanding of this “overload and adaptation” thing, let’s take a look at something called General Adaptation Syndrome.
General Adaptation Syndrome, a 3 stage set of physiological processes, was discovered by scientist and physician Hans Selye in 1926. This set of processes prepare the body for danger and increase the chances of survival.
Selye identified 3 predictable stages that the body uses as a response to stress:
- Alarm Stage. A burst of energy is provided. Adrenaline and cortisol are released, preparing for the “fight or flight” response.
- Resistance Stage. The body attempts to resist or adapt.
- Exhaustion Stage. The body fails to adapt to the stressful stimulus and will gradually deteriorate over time
What does all of this mean?
If you are constantly chasing soreness in your workouts, you are not allowing your body time to adapt. As stated above, if the body does not adapt it will deteriorate over time. At best, this will limit your progress in the gym. At worst, you’ll end up sick, injured and unable to train.
Here are better ways to measure the effectiveness of your workouts:
- More weight for an exercise
- Less rest needed between sets or to complete a session
- More sets of an exercise
- More reps performed at a given weight for an exercise
- For athletes, a noticeable transfer of power, speed, or endurance to your sport.
- For the rest of us, an easier time with everyday tasks (stairs, carrying bags, yard work, etc)
Remember, soreness isn’t the goal. Progress is. Train hard AND train smart!
While it is important to regularly make it a priority in our lives, exercise alone will only take us so far. It is completely possible to achieve weight loss results WITHOUT EXERCISE. Nutrition, rest, recovery, and stress management are more important if you are serious about real results.
affects appetite, energy, mood and more. If you are eating too little, too much, or lots of junk food, chances are you aren’t feeling at your best. If nutrition is in good shape you feel better, have more energy, and an easier time concentrating. This makes both training and following a nutrition plan easier. Also, the caloric deficit needed for weight loss is much easier to achieve with small adjustments to food intake versus spending hours exercising. If you want results, don’t ignore nutrition! It doesn’t have to be “perfect” or super bland to get results.
When was the last time you were able to put in a good workout while exhausted? If you’re tired and run down from exercise and everything else life throws at you, your workouts will suffer. When you’re well rested, you have more energy and better ability to focus, which makes for better training and an easier time following a nutrition plan.
Stress Management & Recovery
Exercise is a form of stress. It can be beneficial if used correctly, but too much, along with the other stressful stuff, can be a problem. For the body to make progress and get better, we have to reduce or remove stress sometimes.
More is not always better. Give yourself time to rest and recover. Sleep, get a massage, and just generally relax every now and then. Your body with thank you for it!
Exercise is a small part of a much bigger picture. You’ll be more likely to have lasting success by focusing on these areas instead of trying to exercise more or harder.