man holding cramped foot

When you are exercising, you should be able to determine when the uncomfortable stiffness you feel is due to pain or soreness. Soreness is natural; it is an expected side effect of exercise that indicates your muscles are tired, but growing stronger. Your body needs some level of stress to make gains in strength. Pain does not equal growth. In fact, it may be a symptom of injury or sickness. When pain is left untreated or ignored, you may only be hurting your goals. How can you tell the difference, especially after an intense workout?

Soreness

Muscle soreness is usually at its most intense between 24 to 72 hours after the workout. While soreness does come from muscle damage, it is a safe level of small tears in the fibers, referred to as Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness (DOMS). During this period, it may be uncomfortable to move as the area is tight to the touch, but some gentle stretching can help your body relax. While sore in one area, you may want to exercise a different part of your body to let your muscles recover. Managing soreness is why some athletes have leg days, core days, chest days, and so on.

Pain

Pain may occur in the middle of – or right after – your workout. It is usually a sharp, stinging feeling in your joints or muscles. Pain can linger on even after you have taken the appropriate rest. You shouldn’t ignore pain, as it may be indicative of injury, and if you try to push through it, your injury may only get worse and stop your exercise routine outright. When the pain lasts for more than seven days, you may want to speak with a medical expert like a physical therapist about your condition.

To prevent pain and build muscle, every person needs a unique workout routine. That routine depends on their goals and what they can practice on a consistent schedule. Having the advice of fitness experts and fellow athletes nearby can not only help prevent injury from exercise but motivate you to stick to your goals. If you are looking for a fun fitness group in Broward County, try one of our free fitness classes at PumpFit!