Understanding soreness and how to manage it is not just a matter of comfort; it’s an essential aspect of a CrossFit athlete’s journey.
In this article we’ll address two types of soreness, why being sore is so common in CrossFit, and ways that you can avoid (or at least live with) your achy muscles.
Why Does CrossFit Make Me Sore?
CrossFit is known for being “constantly varied” meaning that you work multiple muscle groups at a time.
Combined with the high intensity and high volume of repetitions demanded in the workouts, your muscles undergo a lot of stress which is later expressed as the discomfort we know as “being sore”.
CrossFit is largely based on the principle of progressive overload: gradually increasing intensity or workload to stimulate gains in strength and muscle.
You’ll experience soreness until your body becomes accustomed to the demands, however once it does, you’ll continue to increase the intensity, placing higher demands on your muscles continuing the cycling of soreness.
Finally, since CrossFit exercises resemble physical activities that you do in your day-to-day, you’re a lot more likely to notice soreness when you do these functional
In other words, being sore is your life now and if you’re going to live this way, it’s important to understand that there are two different types of soreness:
Acute Muscle Soreness
Acute muscle soreness typically occurs during or immediately after intense physical activity.
It’s the intense burning sensation that you feel in your muscles when you go hard on the Assault Bike, or when you’re too many thrusters into the WOD.
When you “feel the burn”, what you’re feeling is lactic acid buildup, the by product of your muscles producing energy.
This type of soreness doesn’t last very long, and stops relatively quickly (sometimes instantly) once your body has a chance to recover.
What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?
DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, is more persistent than acute muscle soreness. The discomfort usually peaks 24 to 72 hours after intense physical activity or exercise. It’s caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers which occur during intense or unfamiliar physical activity. The inflammatory response that helps to rebuild (and therefore strengthen) the tears contributes to the discomfort.
Understanding these types of soreness and their underlying causes is crucial for athletes to tailor their training, recovery, and pain management strategies effectively.
Should I Train if I Feel Sore?
Training while experiencing mild muscle soreness is generally okay to train through, but if the soreness is severe or affects your range of motion significantly, you should give your muscles time to recover before engaging in intense training again.
Rest and recovery are crucial for muscle repair and growth.
Myths About Soreness
Myth 1: “No Pain, No Gain” While some discomfort during training is expected, severe pain is not necessary for muscle growth or improvement. If you feel more than mild discomfort even after warming up, it’s probably not a good idea to force your body. Pushing through extreme pain can lead to injuries and hinder progress.
Myth 2: “Soreness Equals Progress” Feeling sore after a workout doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making gains. In the same way, you shouldn’t feel like you didn’t “workout hard enough” or that you’re not making progress if you don’t experience DOMS the next day. Progress is more accurately measured by improvements in strength, endurance, technique, and achieving your fitness goals.
How to Avoid Soreness in CrossFit
While avoiding soreness completely is unrealistic for CrossFit athletes, there are ways to mitigate the discomfort felt after training.
- Proper Warm-up and Cool Down: Warming up increases your heart rate, blood flow, and muscle elasticity. On the other hand, cooling down after a training session gradually decreases your heart rate and eases your body back to a resting state. Both contribute to better circulation, aiding in the removal of metabolic waste products that contribute to soreness.
- Gradual Progression: Overdoing intensity and volume before you’re ready can increase the likelihood of feeling sore. Be progressive when increasing the intensity and duration of your workouts. “Stay in your lane” and train according to your fitness level and how much you’ll be able to recover between your current and next training session.
- Adequate Hydration and Nutrition: Staying hydrated throughout the day can help to reduce muscle fatigue and cramping. Proper hydration lets your muscles effectively flush out metabolic waste like lactic acid, and maintain a balance of nutrients and electrolytes needed for optimal muscle function.
- Foam Rolling and Stretching: These post training techniques can both prevent muscle soreness and help to alleviate it when it occurs. This is because they improve blood circulation, flexibility, and reduce muscle tension.
It’s important to note that while soreness is a common part of the CrossFit experience, it should not be debilitating or prolonged.
Incorporating a proper warm-up and cool-down in your workouts, and getting adequate hydration, and rest are essential strategies to manage and reduce soreness while maximizing the benefits of Crossfit training.
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