Should You Run When You’re Sore?

Stretching for runners

To run, or not to run…

I’ve been doing regular EMS training sessions with the team at VitalFit EMS Lab in Canary Wharf. It’s an intense training method that can sometimes leave me a bit sore. (You can read more about that in this post). My session this past Thursday was particularly tough with some weighted lunges on a bosu ball. It left me with some pretty achy quads and glutes wondering if perhaps I was too sore to run.

Since I have been a little absent from Parkrun recently, I really wanted to go on Saturday so I ignored my sore muscles and headed to Highbury Fields.

I told myself I’d take it easy. Just do a little recovery run I thought to myself.

I should really know myself better.

I seem to be incapable of going easy at Parkrun. I just get caught up in the excitement of a start line and someone shouting GO! The knowledge that the event is timed renders me incapable of doing anything other than giving it my all. Despite starting sensibly, I picked up the pace consistently throughout the whole race and finished with a time of 24:46.

But man, it was tough. And I limped my way all the way home wondering if perhaps I had done more harm than good.

Should You Run When You’re Sore? 

The general rule of thumb is that it’s OK to run or exercise with some light soreness in your legs or body, especially if you know this soreness is caused by previous exercise. This Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is caused by micro tears in the muscles that are caused when you raise the intensity of your workout. If the soreness is manageable, it’s OK to run.

If you decide to go for it, and your pain increases while you run, you should stop. I often find that my muscle soreness disappears after I warm up which was definitely the case in my recent Parkrun. But it did come back to (quite literally!) bite me in the ass later.

Stretching for runners

This perhaps looks a bit dumb, but it’s a really nice stretch. Don’t judge.

When You Should Skip Your Run

Sometimes, soreness is caused by something more sinister than DOMS. It could also be a sign of strained or pulled muscles and pushing yourself to run could actually make the problem worse. Also, if the soreness is getting steadily worse, not better, you need to take a rest. Humans, especially runners, are remarkably good at ignoring their own body’s warning signs. Sometimes, a rest day will actually do more good for you than powering through your next session. And, unlike me, if you’re capable of dialling back the intensity, that can be a good middle ground.

How to Treat Soreness

As I Iearned, running with sore muscles can sometimes ease your pain, but it can also worsen your soreness. My glute muscles were so sore yesterday, I could scarcely sit on a hard surface without wincing. Whoops. To help ease your muscle soreness, make sure you warmup before any intense activity. You can also try icing the sore areas after a run or, if you can handle it, an ice bath.

Take a day off to do some stretching or easy yoga or indulge in some self-massage with a massage stick or foam roller. I also like a good Epsom salt bath.

Stretching for runners

Are Sore Muscles a Good Sign?

Not always, but I totally get that there is an element of smugness with DOMS. It’s a little reminder that you worked hard. But don’t be a hero. A little muscles soreness is OK, but severe DOMS really isn’t essential to anyone’s running or fitness goals!

I wanted to go for a long run today, but instead, I’ve decided to take the day off to let my muscles fully recover. I’ll enjoy this coming week’s workouts way more if I’m not yelping every time I stand up or sit down!

5 Comments

  1. David March 25, 2019 / 10:08 am

    If it’s sore – RUN. If it hurts – DON’T RUN.
    That philosophy has always seemed to work for me 🙂

    • thoughtsandpavement March 25, 2019 / 10:11 am

      Very sensible advice. 🙂 Makes perfect sense.

      • Graham March 26, 2019 / 8:08 am

        Tart cherry juice and apple cider vinegar both help with sore muscles!

  2. J.H. March 29, 2019 / 1:16 pm

    so I see the nice shots of the UK but I have a sneaky suspicion your are Cnd. Don’t know why. Mention of the basement at the inlaws, scotiabank?

    • thoughtsandpavement March 29, 2019 / 3:02 pm

      You’re right! I grew up in a small town in Ontario called Kincardine, and lived in Toronto for several years before moving to London four years ago 🙂

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