A common joke among the Crossfit crowd is that some part of your body is always sore. Whether it be your legs from squats, arms from pull-ups, or chest from push-ups, performing functional movements in hypertrophy ranges (8-12 reps) breaks your muscles down and builds them back up. Muscle soreness is the bi-product of that breakdown.
But when should soreness be a concern? Here are some ways to gauge if you should hit the gym or take a rest day:
- Your muscles are painful to the touch. Deep tissue pain is one thing, but if your muscles are sensitive to the lightest of touch, you should rest.
- You can’t perform daily functional tasks. If it’s difficult to lift your arms to wash your hair, put your pants on, or sit on the toilet, you should rest.
- You are dreading the workout even though it has your favorite movements. Each of us has our favorite workouts. But if the thought of performing 100 air squats after having just done some heavy squats the day prior seems like torture, you should rest. (Note: here at Aerial, we do not program this way obviously.)
Do remember, resting does not permit you to skip the gym altogether. While it might be good to rest, you could also use the day as an active recovery day.
This type of recovery focuses on completing exercises at a low intensity but high enough to increase blood flow and rid the body of the enzymes responsible for muscle damage and fatigue. In short, active recovery will help minimize the symptoms of muscle soreness.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) is the build-up of lactic acid from anaerobic exercise. This lowers the pH of your blood which in turn causes the pain you feel during exercise and DOMS.
Active recovery helps to clear the lactic acid and reduce your chances of DOMS. This is why cooling down post-WOD is so valuable. It will allow you to perform at similar levels throughout the week.
What is the best way to recover you ask?
- Be active recreationally. Find an activity or sport outside of the gym you can do on your days off from the gym! This doesn’t necessarily mean high intensity. Consider something you can perform at a pace where you can still talk and joke around with other people. Some activities you could consider are golf, hiking, kayaking, biking, or rock climbing.
- Take a class outside of Crossfit. Consider things like dance, yoga, pilates, etc. Make sure it has a physical component.
- Get a massage. These are necessary for recovery. It helps get the blood flowing more effectively into your muscles, which aids in rebuilding. Plus it feels really good!
- Foam roll. If getting massages on a regular basis doesn’t seem realistic, make friends with your foam roller. Slowly and steadily roll your muscles. You can also use a lacrosse ball to dig into those hard spots such as your hips and shoulders. The idea is to feel pressure and slight discomfort but NEVER excruciating pain.
Hopefully, this gives you some more insight into your workouts and how they make you feel. If you have any questions, please let any of the coaches know!