Whether you’re trying to maintain a streak or wondering if you can skip today because it hurts, you might want to know if you should go running when you’re sore.
Not only will we answer this question but we’ll also discuss how to manage feeling sore after a run.
Knowing when to push yourself to see improvements and when to back off to allow for recovery and to avoid injury is key to getting the most out of runs and workouts. This can sometimes be an art to develop, so we’re here to help.
Why Does Running Make Me Sore?
Any athlete—beginner or elite—can experience DOMS, and it’s most common when you’re returning to running after an injury, at the beginning of a season, or if you’re introducing a new type of activity. In other words, it’s especially common when you haven’t been running for a while (or not as hard).
While DOMS likely occurs due to a variety of factors, what happens is your physical activity tears your muscles more than they are used to, leading to inflammation and soreness as your body tries to heal itself.
What Should I Do If My Legs Hurt After Running?
In order to determine if you should go running when you’re sore, you first have to figure out if it’s soreness or acute pain. If your legs are just sore, then you’re okay to run. But if it’s pain, then you need to stop running and perhaps also see a doctor.
Soreness is most common after a hard workout or race, and you don’t even have to worry if you’re sore for a couple of days. When you’re sore for more than three days or your pain levels are above a 2/10 on the pain scale, then it’s pain and not soreness.
You don’t want to run through pain because it won’t make you a stronger runner. Instead, something that was originally a minor injury will become a major one, and you could be sidelined for weeks.
Even if you are able to push through the pain, you might develop an asymmetrical running form because you’re trying to overcompensate for what feels uncomfortable and relying more on the side of your body that doesn’t hurt.
What are Some Tips to Help With Sore Muscles?
While you’ll need to see a medical professional like a physical therapist for pain that doesn’t go away, you can treat soreness at home as long as it doesn’t last more than three days.
Ice the Muscles
While no one in their right mind wants to jump into an ice bath or ice their feet after a run, it’s actually really good for your muscles. The temperature should be around 55-60 Fahrenheit. In other words, the ice should melt, but it should take about 3-5 minutes to do so.
If you can stand the first minute, then you’ll be able to stand the ice bath the rest of the time. You’ll actually be able to relax because the water will start to seem more temperate. But make sure that you don’t kick your legs because then it will get cold again.
You should ice your feet or take an ice bath for 10-15 minutes. It seems like a long time, but with practice, you’ll get used to it. Icing your muscles is important because water pressure will help to remove waste products as well as decreasing inflammation in your legs.
Stretch After Hard Workouts
Stretching is one of the best things you can do to stay limber and make sure that your muscles are primed for your workouts. After you complete a hard workout (or really any workout), stretching will allow your muscles to relax and heal.
You’ll want to target your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hip rotators, and your trunk/spinal region. These are the areas that get tight and are prone to soreness. Ideally, you’ve also taken the time to cool down after your run as well.
You might even want to try yoga, but don’t overdo it. This isn’t the time for a long, in-depth yoga session. Instead, think about something you might do before you go to sleep. This will help you relax and may assist in reducing DOMS.
Refuel with Carbs and Protein
Just like a car uses up gas, your body uses up fuel when you run, so you’ll need to refuel pretty shortly after you run. The ideal ratio is 4/3-to-1 of carbs to protein. You can try nutrition bars, but make sure that they aren’t loaded with sugar.
Another option is drinking chocolate milk, which will make you feel like a kid again but has a great mixture of protein, carbs, and B-vitamins—the perfect recovery drink. You can also make your own combos like a bagel with peanut butter or a banana and yogurt.
The key is making sure that you’re getting more carbs than protein and doing it within the first 30 minutes of finishing a workout. Your muscles will be most ready to replenish their glycogen supplies then, which will help to minimize muscle soreness.
Giving your muscles a massage might seem luxurious, but it’s one of the best things you can do for them either by using a foam roller or a massage gun. One study found that just 20 minutes of foam rolling immediately after you exercise shows a marked decrease in DOMS.
You definitely can go to a professional, but you don’t need to. Instead, you can get your significant other or a close friend to massage your legs with their hands or do it yourself with a massage tool like a foam roller or massage gun.
It seems counterintuitive, but one of the best things you can do to help with soreness is to walk or stay active. This will allow your muscles to stay loose and not tighten up. Even if you don’t feel like you should go for a run, a short walk can do you a world of good.
If you go for a short jog or walk around and things aren’t starting to loosen up and feel better, then you may be dealing with acute pain and not DOMS. Although you might feel sore during the first mile or so of a jog, it shouldn’t last if you’re really dealing with DOMS.
In the end, you’re probably good to go running if you’re sore because you’re likely suffering from DOMS. However, if you’re experiencing pain, that’s a completely different story, and you’ll want to stay home.
Make sure that you incorporate some of these tips into your running routine like stretching and taking an ice bath because they will help quite a bit with keeping DOMS at bay. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.