Here's the deal: Running hurts. Yes, it can make you feel wonderful and give you a serious dose of euphoria (hello, runner's high!), but ultimately, running is a high-impact, high-intensity exercise that's bound to end in some aches and pains. The trick is knowing when soreness is normal, and when it means you may have injured yourself.
It helps to get acquainted with common runner injuries so you know what to watch out for and you know what you can do to combat soreness. This way, you can figure out whether running when you're sore is beneficial or harmful for your health; and, you can understand how to stave off injuries and take care of yourself if you do feel achy and sore after a run.
Why Running Makes You Sore
It's totally normal to experience sore quads or sore thighs after running, in addition to experiencing sore, well, everything. This is because, according to Runner's World, the action of running pushes your body's weight downward, and the shock of this process actually releases chemicals that activate pain receptors.
In addition, delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a factor; this is the gradual discomfort that occurs after your leg muscles have performed an eccentric contraction. If you're a new runner or you're running longer distances, DOMS is almost inevitable. In other words, running can put some serious stress on your body, especially if you're not careful.
Is Running With Sore Legs OK?
Running with sore legs is, in most cases, OK, provided that it's just regular soreness you're experiencing and not an injury. According to an article by Amy Marturana, certified personal trainer, published in Self in April 2017, there are four common types of injuries to watch out for if you're a new runner: runner's knee, plantar fasciitis, shin splints and Achilles tendinitis.
Although these injuries and their symptoms vary, it's safe to say that if your soreness feels like more than slight discomfort, you may be dealing with an injury. In this case, try backing off for a day or two and consider running on a treadmill for a few days afterward; a treadmill has more give to help aid in your recovery.
You know your body and its limits better than anyone: If you're still in pain (and not just experiencing soreness or stiffness) after taking it easy for a few days, it may be time to see a doctor.
Combating Post-Run Soreness
There are several ways you can alleviate your aches if you've been running with sore legs, as well as ways you can prevent soreness from occurring in the first place. To help reduce your risk of running-related injuries, Harvard Health Publishing recommends doing a proper warmup before your run. Gentle stretches can help loosen your muscles and allow them to relax and get back to their full range of motion.
In addition, sitting in a cold tub for just 10 minutes after a long, particularly intense run can help reduce swelling and soreness. Wearing appropriate footwear and resisting the urge to do too much, too soon is also important, especially if you're a new runner.