Muscle Soreness From Running - Causes and Treatment

Muscle soreness from running is a good thing.  I know it doesn't feel real good, but it means your improving.  I remember during my years of intense training in high school and college I even enjoyed that feeling in my legs.  It may sound strange, but it is an acquired taste.

I will go over the causes of why your muscles are sore first. Then I will review what you can do to make the pain go away. After the quick explanations, I will review each step in more detail.

Remember though, sharp pain is bad! If you are feeling any real sharp pain, that might be the sign of a serious injury, and you should stop running. I am not a doctor, but I know you should have any strong sharp pain looked at.

Here's a video explanation from Coach Tief. Watch the quick video, or just read on for the same information.

First the causes of your pain.
1. You have been running faster than normal.
2. You have been running farther than normal.
3. You just did a specific exercise or workout you haven't done before.

Now for the treatment of those sore muscles.
1. Ice your sore muscles for 10 to 15 minutes after a run.
2. Make sure you rest your legs enough.
3. If they are particularly bad and you can afford it, get a sports massage.
4. Grin and bear it. Sore muscles mean you are improving.

You want more information. That's good. Knowledge is Power. Let's review the causes of your pain.

General Muscle Soreness is caused by microscopic muscle tears. These tears happen naturally when you use your muscles more than they are accustomed to. Now, don't panic. These small tears will heal soon, making your legs even stronger. I call the process, tear and repair. So in a way, getting sore legs is a good thing. You will get better at running by doing this. Now for the specific reasons for your soreness.

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1. Running faster than normal will activate different muscles within your legs. Everyone has fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. Most distance runners are heavy on the slow twitch because they provide you with the strength to keep on running. When you sprint, you use fast twitch muscle groups. They may not be used to this and will hurt a bit the next day.

2. Running longer than normal will stress the slow twitch muscle fibers. They might tear a little bit, but they will repair themselves. Remember the 10% rule for increasing your mileage. Don't run too many more miles than what you previously have done. This can lead to injury.

3. I always get really sore whenever I take a long break from running. I don't run much in the winter so when I resume in the spring, I expect to be sore. My muscles simply aren't used to running because of the time off. Other activities that I don't normally do will also make me sore, such as when I have to shovel for the first time in the winter. This is natural, and you will recover.

Now for your treatment options. Muscle soreness is not so bad for you, but you can speed up the recovery process.

1. Ice after a run. I ice my knees religiously because they tend to get sore. If you have any muscle area that will get sore on occasion, ice it. Our team later in the season runs to a nearby lake and stands in the cool water for 15 minutes. It's cold, but quite refreshing for your legs.

2. Rest is good in moderation. Don't totally give up running. A day here or there is good though for muscle soreness. You can also Cross Train to give your legs a break. This wya your running legs get a rest, but you stay aerobically fit.

3. Massages are wonderful. A sports massage kind of hurts in a good way. Basically when you rub down your muscles it increases blood flow to that area. The increased blood flow helps heal your sore muscles quicker.

4. Last but not least, "Suck it up, buttercup." A great quote from a former coach. Running sometimes hurts. You have to push yourself to improve. Being a little sore is a great indicator that you did some good things out there running. You can still go out and run with some muscle soreness.

There you have it. It's alright to be sore. Don't worry too much and go ahead, you can still get out that door. Sometimes a nice little run can actually help loosen up those sore muscles.

- Written by David Tiefenthaler

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This article was written by David Tiefenthaler, the founder and main contributor for In addition to running, he's also an author, and a full time teacher.

You can follow David on Twitter @Tiefsa or visit his blog


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