“Why am I not sore?” This question came up recently during a session with one of my clients. It’s a good question and one I really wanted to answer thoroughly, so why not write a blog/newsletter article about it? 😉

As the wife of a former powerlifter, I knew being sore a day or two after a workout was supposed to be a good thing. “Leg day” wasn’t a success if it wasn’t next to impossible to get down a flight of stairs the following day, right? But what if you didn’t feel sore the next day? Did that mean you weren’t working hard enough? Did it mean you weren’t gaining strength? Was that workout a waste of time?

During your workouts, your muscles are both extending (lengthening) and contracting (shortening). When a muscle lengthens beyond what it is used to, we create micro-trauma in our muscles and surrounding connective tissues. This micro-trauma is what makes us feel sore anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after training. And if you want to be super hip and impress everyone, you call this soreness “DOMS” (delayed onset muscle soreness). The myth is that you’re only building muscle and getting stronger if you feel this soreness after a workout. Current research has shown that this muscle damage is not needed for muscle growth. So despite what Arnold Schwarzenegger says, pain does not equal gain!

When you first begin a new exercise routine or program, you may experience muscle soreness frequently. This is usually because you haven’t used these muscles in a while, or you’re using them differently. Once you are consistent with your workouts, you’ll likely find that you no longer feel DOMS unless you try a new exercise using different muscles or significantly increase your weight load. But remember, not feeling sore does not equate to not gaining muscle or not working hard enough.

So if I’m not sore, how do I know my workout is still working for me?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is my endurance increasing? Do I tire less easily?
  2. Am I gaining strength? Do the same exercises feel easier?
  3. Am I moving better? Am I more aware of how I move?
  4. Do I feel good after my workout? Do I enjoy it?

If the answer is “yes” to these questions, then stop thinking you’re not working hard enough! Your workout is still working for you!