Why Do We Get Post Workout (“Second Day”) Soreness?

Have you ever worked out, and you were feeling awesome, and you were making gains…and then 2 days later you’re laying on the floor crying because you can’t bend your legs enough to sit on the toilet? No? Just me? Most of us get post workout soreness.

Why Do We Get Post Workout (“Second Day”) Soreness?

When we push our body outside its comfort zone, we cause our muscle tissue to tear (and although they are tiny tears, they still hurt!). In order to recover quickly, you need water, protein, rest and STRETCHING. So if we do all that after a workout, why do we get second-day soreness?

Why Do We Get Post Workout ("Second Day") Soreness?

Well…there are lots of theories. One says that lactic acid continues to build up in your muscles for days after your workout. From everything I can find in my research, this is mostly false.

What Is Lactic Acid?

Lactic acid is produced when your body breaks down carbohydrates to fuel your body in lieu of oxygen. Like when you’re exercising…or having a particularly bad asthma attack. This can even happen if you’re super sick. It’s pretty cool stuff!

Lactic acid DOES build up in your muscles during your workouts, which causes SAME DAY soreness. When you rehydrate and get a good stretch, the pain usually subsides.

What About Day 2 (or Second Day) Soreness?

Okay…another theory is that SDS (technical term: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness…but I like SDS better. So there.) occurs while your muscle fibers are repairing themselves. Basically, you’ve done so much damage that to fix it is painful. Okay…maybe.

But here’s the kicker: no one really knows why you can’t walk 2 days after that killer leg workout. But nearly everyone has a theory.

Help Your Muscles Recover

If you don’t give them rest and nourishment (or what your muscles consider nourishment), you’re going to be sore for a long, long time.

Drink Water

Drinking LOTS of water (more than your standard 64 oz.) is a good start. Water helps your muscles to repair themselves and will help to flush the lactic acid that builds up the day of your workout.Stretch!

Both dynamic and static stretching BEFORE and AFTER your workouts can help to minimize how sore you get. I’m not saying that stretching will stop you from being sore (otherwise, we wouldn’t be aching the day after a good barre workout!), but it will help your muscles to recover more quickly than if you skipped it.

So stretch. Okay? Okay. You can even get all fancy with a sports roller.

Keep Exercising!

Basically, we’re all stuck with this literal pain in the ass at some point. Well, we are if we exercise. Which you should. Thankfully, as you and I get stronger, SDS will go away…kind of. Continuing to be active can actually help your body recover more quickly.

Natural Relief

If you can barely walk…for example, you ask Ish to toss you down a pillow and blanket and put the kids to bed because you just can’t even imagine walking up (let alone down!) the stairs…you may need something to help your muscles calm down

You can also use the advice of your high school coach: and “RICE” your aching muscles. Remember that? Rest, Ice, Compression, & Elevation. Yup, I paid attention in school.

If You’re Really Hurting

Our muscles will adapt to the new exercise and eventually you’ll feel great on day 2. Until then, take a few days to rest if you’re hurting (I mean really hurting…can’t walk up the stairs or squat to…well…you know.) and then get back into it.

Use some of my favorite essential oils (mentioned above) to help soothe the pain you’re feeling.

If you workout and you don’t already have a bottle of peppermint oil, you need to remedy that. Right now. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve loaned out my oils to other derby girls after practice. Usually, I end up donating the bottle to their sore muscles because I have another one at home. If you want to try oils, there are some great options online.


If you’re only mildly sore, it’s fine to workout again. Just listen to your body and if it says “stop”, then stop. I do recommend that you don’t do a leg workout two days in a row if your thighs are screaming…you should probably focus on another body part. Just don’t forget to stretch those quads!

Now, I’m not a doctor (obviously), so if your post workout soreness lasts more than a few days, you should probably consult one. You don’t want to let a potential injury get worse. 

How do you deal with being sore post workout?

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