Originally published on YOGANONYMOUS — December 18, 2015
We've all been there, the morning after an intense workout: You lie in bed willing your body to get up and go, but as you go to get up you're met with pain.
Sure, that workout was killer, and you felt like a total champion after you finished—but the next day? Not so much. You're sore in places you didn't even know you could be, and cursing your instructor for all of those chaturanga dandasana sequences—you can just barely lift your arms to fix your hair!
So, at what point is the soreness you feel enough to take a day off? You can still work out with sore muscles but, generally, I'd say if its hurts to even sit down your body is trying to tell you something.
Here are four ways to tune in to your tired muscles and treat your body with TLC:
1. Burden of the Burn
You've just fallen into a groove of working out on a regular basis, and you're damn proud of it—as you should be! The fact is, when you introduce your body to a new exercise routine or up the ante when it comes to your workout intensity, it's normal to expect some soreness. What's not so normal is not being able to move. It's important to be able to recognize when your tired muscles are sending you a message, so tune in and give them the break they so deserve. The time you give your body to rest is the time you give your body to recover—a day off isn't necessarily a step backward when it comes to keeping up with your routine.
2. Understand Your Muscles
The extreme soreness that you feel the morning after a tough (or new) workout has a name: 'DOMS,' delayed onset muscle soreness. And when this comes into play not only are your muscles suffering—which you're sure to feel—a workout done in the midst of this is sure to suffer too. While said muscle soreness might be indicative of a job well done, it doesn't necessarily mean you should get right back on the mat.
DOMS can last for a day, or even three, and according to the American College of Sports Medicine: "DOMS appears to be a side effect of the repair process that develops in response to microscopic muscle damage."
Taking a break for a few days can lessen the chances of further damaging your muscles, and allow your body to have time to heal. "No pain, no gain" isn't always true. Continuing to exercise when you're in the throes of severe DOMS may not be the best course of action, as it can add unnecessary stress to already distressed muscles.
If the idea of a day off seems unbearable, consider partaking in very light activity like a slow, gentle, and restorative practice or a not-so-strenuous walk. When it comes to dealing with DOMS, light to moderate exercise should not hinder the healing process—just be sure not to overdo it.
3. Fuel Up
Did you know that dehydration can be a culprit of muscle fatigue and soreness? Excessively sweating from prolonged periods of exercise is a huge culprit for dehydration, as the body loses too much of its fluids without means of replenishment. According to Daily Burn you can't actually rehydrate while working out, in fact: “It takes at least 45 minutes for the body to recover from even mild dehydration.”
One of the easier ways to determine if you're suffering from mild to severe dehydration is to look at your urine. Yeah, it sounds kind of gross, but it can be surprisingly telling. If you're going less frequently, or find that when you do go your urine is a darker shade of yellow or smells a bit too strong, it could be your body's way of showing it's dehydrated and in need of water.
Greatist.com touches on the effects of dehydration on muscles, stating that: “Lean muscle tissue contains about 75 percent water, so when the body’s short on water, muscles are more easily fatigued.”When your body is deprived of water and dehydrated you're also much more susceptible to muscle cramps.
Knowing the best ways to refuel your body is crucial. After all, you need to take care of yourself in order to, in time, power through your next workout. Some of the essentials? Aside from good ol' H20 you should fuel up on electrolytes, protein, potassium, and carbs. After a workout, or on a rest day, try fueling up with a smoothie that packs a punch. By using bananas (a great source of potassium) and peanut butter (a great source of protein) you can create a meal that's both delicious and nutritious.
4. Hit the Reset Button
Don't just strive to understand your body, listen to your mind as well. Maybe your muscles aren't so tired, but your mind is. If you're not feeling motivated to hit the mat or visit the gym, it might just be a sign that you're getting tired of the same old routine.
If you're feeling disenchanted with your workout regimen, switch it up! Make it a mission to target different muscles every day. When you're constantly repeating the same exercise routine day in and day out you're focusing on and overworking certain muscles, while overlooking others. Why not give them all a chance to shine?
A change of routine allows those tired muscles to recover while you work out the ones you've been missing. According to Shape.com: “Studies support the fact that workouts that challenge your body in new ways over time are the most beneficial.” So, pass on the fitness plateau and continue to find new ways to challenge your mind and your muscles—your body will thank you for it.
Have you been listening to your body? How do you know when a rest day is due? Share in the comments below!