This is not fake news! Tiny tears in your muscles *are* good. Not rips, of course, but the microscopic muscle tears that result from a hard workout. Because this is how your muscle grows.
That soreness that you feel a day or two after a workout, officially called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, is not the result of lactic acid, which dissipates quickly after a workout. Instead, it’s caused by minute injuries in your muscle fiber.
As those little tears knit themselves back together, they build new muscle fiber…which is how your muscles get bigger. Cool, right? This is why it’s important to nourish your body with protein after a workout–your muscles need that building block to repair.
And this is why it’s important to cycle through muscle groups during the week. Your tissue needs approximately 48 hours to heal and rebuild. So if you’ve had a legs day, and it hurts to go up the stairs, give your leg muscles a rest the following day to allow them to repair. Hitting the same muscle group day in and day out will only cause tissue breakdown and risk real injury.
Of course, you can still work out with DOMS. Just move on to a different muscle group, and engage in some light cardio. In fact, gentle exercise will help you repair better than sitting on the sofa, because it increases your circulation, pushing blood to the tissue to speed healing.
A couple of caveats: If your pain is sharp, severe or stabbing vs. a general ache; if it’s limited to a single small area, particularly just on one side of your body; if the pain is in a joint; if it’s immediate rather than gradual; or if it doesn’t begin to lessen after a day or two, you may have a serious injury and should see your doctor.
Otherwise, rest assured that you’ve simply done your job of challenging your body, and now your body is doing its job of repairing those little muscle tears that will heal with new tissue. So high five! (Unless you just did shoulders or bi’s and tri’s and it hurts to lift your arm, in which case a nod of the head will suffice.)