Why doesn't it hurt so good?
August 31, 2008 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Can exercise be good if it doesn't make me sore?

Like so many in this modern world, I'd like to fitten myself up.

This summer, I've traded in my Metropass for a bike, and suddenly become that guy who shows up everywhere with a helmet in his hand and his pant leg tucked into his socks. (One of many, here in Toronto.)

I do ride at a good pace, trying to push myself one step beyond where I'm comfortable, and I keep it up. I feel great afterwards, and enjoy my endorphins as much as the next cyclist.

But I've noticed that, even on days where I'll bike across town twice, sometimes riding for hours, I'm not sore the next morning. Runs and even strenuous 6-hours walks certainly do.

What does this say about the exercise I'm getting? Am I not pushing myself hard enough? What does soreness really denote? Is there gain without pain?
posted by bicyclefish to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Absolutely. I'm rarely sore from cycling, and I bike a lot. Maybe that's why I'm rarely sore. I'd say there's definitely gain without pain, especially on long endurance rides where my goal is to keep my heart rate below a specific threshold for the entire ride.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:50 PM on August 31, 2008

Oh, I should also say that on days when I do intervals or hill repeats, I'm sometimes sore the next day.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:50 PM on August 31, 2008

The soreness is delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. Wikipedia that shiat. It is believed to be caused by eccentric muscle contractions the last time I checked. But no, you don't need to feel it in order to gain benefit from exercise or to make gains, etc.
posted by GleepGlop at 2:59 PM on August 31, 2008

Are you going faster? Are hills easier? What were your blood values before you started cycling versus now? Have you seen your resting heart rate and blood pressure improve? If you've been carrying extra fat, are you losing any of it?

If you haven't measured your baseline values in any of these areas, start now and compare it after a few more months of fall cycling. And to really push yourself, try 15 minute intervals twice a week, where you go full blast for a minute, back to a comfortable rate for the next minute, then fast again, etc.
posted by maudlin at 3:07 PM on August 31, 2008

What does this say about the exercise I'm getting?

It doesn't say anything at all (except indirectly) about the cardiovascular exercise you are getting.

Am I not pushing myself hard enough?

If your goal is to have tree-trunk thighs, then no, you probably aren't. Otherwise, muscle soreness doesn't tell you a lot.

Is there gain without pain? Of course.
posted by ssg at 3:35 PM on August 31, 2008

Actually, I lift weights a couple times a week, often pushing myself so that the exercise itself "burns," but I rarely feel sore the next day, as long as I stretch before and after exercise (I also start with about five minutes of gentle cardio before even stretching).
posted by bingo at 4:16 PM on August 31, 2008

From personal experience I only get sore the first time I have done something in awhile. Example, right now I am lifting a lot and not running that much. If I go out and run three miles today, I will be sore the next day. It takes a few runs before the soreness passes. Essentially, my conditioning is improved and those muscles are used to being worked in that way.

I would say that the same is true for you. You are now a biker. Your body is used to the mechanics and unless you are going up and down a hill for in the highest gear for a few hours then your body is going to handle it just fine. Is it still good excercise? Yes. Do you need to be sore to get a good workout? No.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is really experienced more whith weightlifting anyway. It is a sign that you have really pushed your muscles in the previous workout.

The standard response for questions about weight loss are that if you really want to drop pounds get nice and toned, then it is ideal to incorporate cardio, weight training, and a healthy eating plan. If you are just looking to get in better shape and maybe drop a few pounds, then eating well and biking everywhere, is certainly a great way to do that. Especially if you are used to a more sedentary lifestyle.
posted by WickedPissah at 4:55 PM on August 31, 2008

Is there gain without pain?

Absolutely. Just because you're not in agony doesn't mean you're not toning and strenghthening your muscles and burning calories.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:05 PM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh and, naturally, cardiovascular activites like cycling are great for your heart!
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:06 PM on August 31, 2008

All I can say is that I hate you.

I ALWAYS get sore. No matter how consistently I train. And I do. Anything with hi-reps and I get sore.

But to answer your question: You are fine. Soreness does not necessarily equate with any kind of gains. If it did I would be the size of a house. As Wally J said: "No pain... no pain."

To test if your "pushing yourself" start a metric of some sort. Track your heart rate, distance and times of rides. Track improvements.

You lucky bastard.
posted by tkchrist at 7:24 PM on August 31, 2008

I really enjoy feeling sore or stiff the day after lifting or running hard. The trick, as has been pointed out already, is to mix it up. Unless you really go above what your usual is, the big groups aren't going to get sore. You want to go after all the stabilizers, core muscles, things you sometimes forget, etc. I don't know what this translates into for biking. For running it can mean using a different stride than usual, or maybe a slightly different posture, etc. For lifting there are enough distinct exercises and muscles to keep you sore for the rest of your life. Helps keep it interesting as well.

If you really want to feel cardio, you could always try the sort of thing they do for the VO2Max tests. I hear that wipes you out for a good long while.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:14 PM on August 31, 2008

Just train harder.
posted by matteo at 7:37 AM on September 1, 2008

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