When you are working out, do you ever think about how you want to feel during or afterward? I can’t recall where I heard this but — with Pilates, at least — the goal is to feel energized after your session, not exhausted. This contradicts many fitness enthusiasts’ idea of what a “good” workout is. Do you really got a better workout if you can’t walk the next day? Does that make you feel like you accomplished more or got that much closer to your goal? The psychology behind this mode of thinking is interesting, to say the least, but it likely has to do with the “no pain, no gain” mentality that seems to be part of contemporary fitness culture. It’s as if being super-sore and barely able to function is a badge of honor or a sign that you are working really hard. However, there really is no scientific correlation between the two. Some of the best workouts that I have had, making me feel the most connected to my body, only left me with minimum-to-light soreness in the days following. In Pilates — being that it is low-impact resistance training — any muscle soreness you feel should be 24-48 hours AFTER your class or session. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, which is the result of the micro-tearing of muscles and the subsequent repair that occurs when you do resistance training. There are three things to consider when it comes to the “no pain, no gain” myth:
- There just isn’t enough evidence to show a correlation between soreness and the quality of workout.
- Your genetic make-up has to do with how sore you feel, regardless of the level of intensity.
- If you feel soreness immediately after or during the workout, it can be a sign of overworking or injury. Not a good thing.
In the end, it’s all about what you are after. If you’re training for a marathon, that is something totally different than exercising for your health and well-being. The parameters are different. In my opinion, you should feel energized and ready to tackle the rest of your day, not like you want to crawl into an Epsom salt bath. Some soreness in that 24-48 hour window is good because you know that the muscle building is working, but feeling incapacitated is not. Now, I can’t lie, I’ve definitely had some workout sessions where the next day felt like a struggle to walk down the stairs. But it’s those times that tell me I need to take it down a notch — who wants to feel that way all the time? And it’s not exactly cool or graceful to walk down stairs sideways. This is why Pilates is such a great workout for those who want to build muscle with the added benefit of an energy boost. My studio has a lot of clients who come to us during lunch and go right back to work. You can’t exactly do that after a CrossFit class. You could say that Pilates is like natural caffeine for the mind, body and soul.
Jessica Kuiken is a Certified Pilates Instructor based in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter.