If you’ve ever pushed yourself on a run you’ll know the feeling of your legs aching the next day (or more often than not it’s the day after that). Many customers ask us if this is normal and also how they can stop it happening, a lot of customers also wonder if it’s sensible to train with achy legs, we’ll answer all of these questions here.
Why are my legs aching?
The feeling of your legs aching the day (or up to 72 hours) after running is something most of us are familiar with; however if you are new to running then you’ll probably be a lot more familiar with it. That stiff, painful aching is normally referred to as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and it is the after effect of exercise that your body isn’t fully accustomed to. This can mean exercise that is either harder, longer, faster or biomechanically different to what your body is used to.
The exact biological reasons for this pain still isn’t fully understood; however it’s believed to be as a result of microtrauma to the muscle cells through greater than normal exertion. This explains why it’s worse when you’re new to running and also why it can occur when you introduce a new element to your training (new shoes, new route, hills, sprints, strength training etc.).
The thing to remember is that it is a perfectly normal symptom of your body adapting to exercise and it happens to anyone who pushes themselves hard enough, or tries something new. So whilst we don’t always agree with the old saying “no pain no gain”, this is one situation when this motto is true.
Can I train with achy legs?
The simple answer is yes. Whilst training with DOMS won’t seem appealing when you’re legs are aching you will feel better once you start exercising again and also afterwards. This pain relief is known as exercise-induced analgesia, and is known to occur in endurance training and may also occur in strength training.
How do I stop my legs aching?
Again there is no firm scientific evidence that anything will stop your legs aching, as the mechanisms still aren’t well known. That said there is a vast amount of anecdotal evidence that shows certain things can really help reduce both the intensity and duration of the DOMS.
- Take it steady – Starting any new training program gradually is a good idea and will mean that you give your muscles the best chance of adapting, with less chance of pain.
- Compression Gear – There has been a study on the effect of compression clothing that found that correctly fitted, medical grade compression clothing can help to reduce the damaging effects of muscle oscillation (vibrations).
- Massage Sticks – These are a popular item with more and more athletes and compliment your post-exercise routine perfectly. Massage sticks (seen above) allow you to flush out bi-products of exercise such as lactic acid as well as helping to reduce muscular tension.
- Foam Rollers – These are very similar to massage sticks, with the main difference being that foam rollers will cover a larger area and you can easily put your whole body weight onto the roller for a stronger effect.
- Hydration – There are some suggestions that good hydration and correct electrolyte balance can help to reduce post exercise soreness. Working mainly through prevention, the idea is that by having better hydrated muscle cells they are better able to cope with the stress of exercise and therefore less likely to get damaged.
So whilst your legs aching is a normal part of being a runner, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the effects of a new training load. Do forget if you have any tips for your fellow runners to leave them in the comments section below.