Should I Wait Until My Legs Aren't Sore Before I Run Again?

Resting, ice, elevation and compression (RICE) help treat a sore leg muscle.

Resting, ice, elevation and compression (RICE) help treat a sore leg muscle.

Exercise is like a drug, Dr. James O'Keefe and his colleagues say in a 2012 paper published in the "Mayo Clinic Proceedings" -- enough can heal you, but an overdose can break you. Regular activity lowers blood pressure, strengthens the heart and helps you fit back into that special dress. Unfortunately, running can also cause leg cramps, and overtraining can even lead to injury. By remembering a few pointers, you can be back on the treadmill and burning calories in no time.

Causes

When you're hitting the gym, your muscles are working overtime. During this process, the muscles require large amounts of blood sugar and nutrients for energy. According to Jonathon N. Mike and Len Kravitz from the University of New Mexico, the body's lack of glycogen, or fuel, could cause muscles to tire during exercise. Soreness after exercise, called delayed onset muscle soreness, is that aching you feel in your legs two or three days after a run. It may be caused by microscopic damage to muscle cells, but the exact mechanisms remain a mystery.

Soreness During a Run

If your leg cramps up while you're running that last mile, stop for a few minutes. Stretch your legs and massage the area that hurts the most. If a sharp pain persists in one area, stop running and get checked out by a doctor; you may have sustained an injury. If the pain is radiant, or all over, then you're probably putting healthy stress on the muscles. Running will inevitably cause some muscle soreness, but if the pain becomes so severe you're limping or running abnormally, then you've pushed yourself too hard and you should stop immediately.

Soreness After a Run

After you've made it through a marathon and you think you're safe from further soreness, delayed onset muscle soreness can set in. Lasting up to three days, post-exercise muscle soreness causes swelling, stiffness and tenderness in a runner's legs. Running again with these sore legs can prevent effective recovery and should be avoided. Although low-intensity exercise like walking or swimming should not aggravate the pain, no evidence shows that further exercise will heal the muscle or alleviate the soreness. If your legs are still sore and stiff from a run from two days ago, it's best to wait another day or two until your legs fully recover.

Considerations

After an hour on the treadmill, some soreness is inevitable; however, there are ways to help lessen soreness intensity, especially for new runners. Enter into a new exercise routine slowly to help minimize the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness. Allow up to three or four days between runs so your muscles fully recuperate. Eventually, your muscles should adapt to your running. Drink plenty of electrolyte-containing fluids and stretch the legs before, during and after a run.

 

About the Author

Jacob Broadley has been a writer since 2008. He has a Bachelor of Science in cellular biology from the University of Louisville and is pursuing his M.D. from the American University of the Caribbean.

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