Nobody said it was going to be easy, they just said it is going to be worth it.
You might go into leg day feeling all pumped up and ready to get down to business. But that is before you realized it was going to be hell on earth and go back home crying. On a wheelchair.
Or you could avoid it like the plague until there is absolutely no choice left except utter humiliation and emasculation because you know without a doubt you are signing yourself up for a voluntary crippling at the hands of merciless exercise equipment.
OR you could approach leg day like the seasoned pro that you are, knowing the sacrifices that have to be made for the gains that you reap. By this time, you would already know how it works, why it hurts, and how to make it hurt less.
Many people are adamantly against running after leg day mainly because your legs are not exactly expected to survive its aftermath. From all accounts, leg day is especially grueling and will make you have flashbacks of the way you have lived your life.
However, running after leg day is indeed possible and in some instances and in the right conditions, it is even advisable to do so. You just have to know why leg day hurts like the fires of Hades and how to gradually overcome it.
Why Leg Day is Particularly Nasty
Leg day is a special level of hell in itself. Just look around at the many memes scattered all over the Internet, if you have no idea what I’m talking about. From the looks of it, you might get the idea that the whole concept of an intense leg workout is to voluntarily incapacitate yourself for at least two days.
While this is a popular opinion, there are those blessed few who recover swiftly and easily from the dreaded and grueling leg day. Fast recovery times can be attributed to a lot of factors but younger and healthier people generally bounce back quicker than the rest of the population.
Now, what makes leg day particularly debilitating for us poor souls is a condition known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS, which peaks at about 24 to 48 hours after a particularly intense workout. Sounds precisely like that hell you go through after leg day, right?
Anybody can fall victim to DOMS. This nasty condition is caused by the microscopic trauma the muscles sustain after an intense workout that they are not used to. If you push your muscles too hard, you will inevitably end up with DOMS. Even trained athletes who push past their limits can still have bouts of DOMS.
Running after Leg Day
With all the horror stories about leg day, it should be impossible to even consider getting up after it, right? In fact, there are some who are particularly hardcore about leg day who feel that they have failed in some way if they are able to walk without assistance the next day.
But pain is not a measure of success.
There is a common misconception that exercise does not have to be comfortable and that it is supposed to hurt at some point. This is correct to some degree but you also have to keep in mind that being in pain and doing absolutely nothing but wallow in it can keep you from pushing past your body’s limits, too.
Pain can also set you back from your fitness goals. Imagine being in so much pain that you remain incapacitated for days. Terrible, I tell you, and it does very little for you and your goals if you have to remain in bed for a few days after every workout.
So, should you run after leg day?
The answer is YES…IF YOU CAN HANDLE IT.
An easy recovery run - no more than 15 to 20 minutes and light enough that you can still chat comfortably while doing it - is advisable after especially intense workouts. This will increase your blood flow and help you recover faster without adding further injury.
To maximize the promotion of good circulation, you can also wear compression garments. A nicely fitted pair of compression tights or stockings will increase your circulation and help you get rid of DOMS faster.
How to Run after Leg Day
Running after leg day can seem next to impossible, especially if you are suffering from the unholy wrath of your traumatized muscles in the form of DOMS. If you can, though, running will help reduce the soreness and promote faster recovery so you can get back on your feet in no time.
1. Things You Will Need
Step 1: Slip into your compression garments and your most comfortable running shoes. Remember that this is a recovery run and you are not aiming to break any records here.
Step 2: Stretch your legs gently before doing any running. This will prevent further muscle injury and get your circulation pumped up before your run.
Step 3: Set your timer for 15 to 20 minutes, plug in your earphones, and start running lightly. By this, I mean that you should be able to chat easily while running. If you are used to hitting the ground at breakneck speeds, hold your horses or you will be doing your muscles more harm than good.
Step 4: Finish off your run with a nice stretch to cool down.
Step 5: Keep your compression tights or stockings on for another 1 to 2 hours to maximize the benefits of the increased circulation they bring. Some athletes even swear that sleeping in them will reduce muscle soreness and help you recover faster but it might get too icky with sweat if you stay in it for too long.
Dos and Don’ts of Running after Leg Day
We have covered the positive effects of a nice recovery run after leg day but that does not mean that anyone can do it or you should do it all the time. DOMS is a symptom of microscopic trauma sustained by your muscles during intense leg workouts and you should be careful that you do not add to the damage that it has already sustained.
1. Do plan your workouts
Benjamin Franklin once said that failing to plan is tantamount to planning to fail and in the case of your workouts, this is true.
You cannot just pick off what workout you want to do for that day, because… DOMS and many other things will bite you back in the arse - which will then make you sore and sorry for several days PLUS unable to get any workout in for days.
Plan out your workouts for at least a week not only so you can maximize the muscle-building you get from a hellish leg day but so you can allow for a reasonable amount of rest in between intense workouts.
Remember, in fitness more is not necessarily more.
2. Don’t run after leg day if you can hardly walk unaided
This means that your muscles are so tight and your DOMS is particularly debilitating. In this case, you will be doing more harm than good if you engage in even light-intensity cardio exercises. Stretching is also out of the question.
In cases like these, Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Running advises to instead do a mobility routine plus a strength routine.
3. Do limit your running to 15 to 20 minutes after leg day
Like I said, more does not necessarily mean more.
The main purpose of running after leg day is for recovery not so you can injure yourself more and make your muscles curse you to the high heavens with an ungodly case of DOMS. Respect the needs of your body and limit your running to 15 to 20 minutes at a nice, easy pace, which is just enough to promote good circulation in your legs.
Blood mainly works as a transportation that carries nutrients and oxygen to your muscles and organs as well as ferry the waste products away. Increasing the circulation in your legs will enable your blood to supply your muscles with whatever they need to ensure their recovery quickly and efficiently as well as take away all the waste products that could contribute to muscle soreness.
4. Don’t run or do cardio before leg day
This one has more to do with your performance during leg day than with running after leg day. You cannot expect to be able to put up a good performance on leg day after you have just depleted your glycogen stores by doing cardio the day before.
Reserve your cardio or running sessions after leg day or when you have recovered from DOMS. Allow your body to replenish its glycogen stores and restore full muscle recovery so you can go all out on leg day.
Leg day or a day reserved for intense leg workouts can be hell on earth, it’s true, but gradually and over time, your body will adapt to the stress that you put it through. Nonetheless, this does not lessen the pain that comes after.
Most people think that running after leg day is a feat reserved for masochists who enjoy inflicting more pain on their selves than necessary. However, running after intense leg workouts can be very good for you and your muscles under the right circumstances.
Running after leg day is not done to break any records or further push your body beyond its limits but instead, it is done to aid in the recovery of your muscles after the trauma they received. Keeping a nice, easy pace at no more than 20 minutes can promote good circulation, reduce DOMS, and speed up muscle recovery.
Compression garments are also particularly helpful for those who regularly suffer from DOMS. Like a nice run, compression stockings or tights will promote good circulation in your legs to help facilitate muscle recovery and lessen the pain of DOMS.
So, are you ready to run?
What do you think about running after leg day? Do you engage in some cardio after particularly intense workouts or would you rather rest for a few days to ride out the storm of DOMS? What frustrates you the most about leg day? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Don’t forget to share this article with your family and friends!