How sore is too sore?

May 07, 2014

I hear it all the time in the gym:  “Oh man I was so sore I could barely walk after that last workout!  That was awesome!”  Or better yet, “I was cursing you for days. I was so sore I could barely get out of bed!”  Extreme soreness is NOT an indicator of how good your workout was. 

Through my experience I feel like a lot of people equate soreness with how good the workout was.  


It’s not true.


Soreness is information: If you're constantly sore, you are working too hard and you're not giving yourself enough rest.  You're just constantly breaking your body down and what we really want to do is build the body up.  So, some soreness sometimes: good.  Tons of soreness all the time: not so good.  


So what is an indicator of a good workout?  First, this is a trick question: you shouldn't be judging one single workout.  Judge your whole routine.  Is your routine getting you to your goal?  



too much soreness may lead to this

"Well, Moyer, how do I know if my routine is getting me to my goal, or even better, how do I know if a routine will get me to my goal?"


Well, Reader, that's a great question.  I'm going to teach you the most neglected word in fitness: PERIODIZATION.  Let me explain it in my terms, in the simplest way possible:

Exercise is a form of stress (good stress).

Your body adapts to stress.

Once your body adapts to stress, results will start to plateau.

Periodization changes up your routine (stress) every time your body becomes fully adapted to it.  Plateaus are minimized, and results are maximized.


My general advice to you: change up your routine every 4 weeks.  For four weeks, keep getting better.  Then take a week where you do something different at a lesser intensity.  For example, I am training for a Half Ironman on September 7th.  I have to train for swimming, biking, and running.  I am dividing my training into 4 week blocks, followed by one week of rest.  I'm measuring myself strictly with distances.  Here are my first four weeks:

4/7: swam 20 lengths
4/11: swam 36 lengths (20 straight)
4/14: swam 36 lengths (30 straight)
4/15: BRICK 2mi bike, 2 mi run
4/17: BRICK 5mi bike, 1.8mi run
4/18: swam 40 lengths straight
4/20: BRICK 2mi bike, 4.6mi run
4/21: swam 52 lengths straight
4/22: weight training
4/23: 5,000m rowing and 3mi stationary bike
4/25: BRICK 1mi bike, swam 64 lengths straight, 2mi bike
4/26: BRICK 3.2mi bike, 5mi run
4/28: 11.1mi bike (8.6 straight)
4/28: swam 72 lengths straight
5/03: 6.9 mile run
5/05 - 5/08: NOTHING
I am going to start back up on 5/09 with swimming.  I will do a minimum of 72 lengths because that's where I left off.  I will pick up where I left off with the biking and running, as well.  For four weeks, I will continue to build on my distances.  On June 8, my second four week block will conclude and I will run a half marathon. I will then take a week off.  I will continue to build my distances until the day of the Half Ironman when I have to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56, and run 13.  
That's just one example.  A personal training client who has a goal of gaining muscle might get measured in the dead lift.  For example, if the client does 100 pounds for 10 reps over 4 sets during the first week, the second week we would increase the weight and keep everything else the same.  We would continue to increase the weight in small increments for four weeks, and then we would assess whether it was time for an easier week.
Simply put: do more for four weeks, then have an easier week.  Do something different.  Get back to your main routine after that rest week.  Plateaus will be minimized and results will be maximized.    



Category: Exercise

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