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After intensive workouts muscle soreness is a common phenomenon. I heard, that it is important to recuperate before working out again.
However, I had the following experience: During a two week bike trip I continued the trip despite the soreness and lost a lot of weight and gained endurance. I am wondering now, if I should continue with what I know will work (working out despite the soreness) or if I should wait until the muscles recuperated.
Are there any references or articles that reflect this topic? Why is it important to wait until the muscles are not sore anymore?

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The importance of recovery has already been largely addressed in this question fitness.stackexchange.com/q/96/501. –  Evan Plaice Jul 22 '11 at 20:13
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

A lot of the answer depends on your goals and the exercise you are doing. Our bodies are marvelous creations that can adapt to a wide range of stresses over time. However, there are a few principles you can use to apply to your exercise regimen:

  • Muscle is torn down and exhausted while you exercise
  • Muscle is built back up when you rest--usually larger/stronger than before
  • Endurance is adapting your muscles to adapt to long periods of continuing stress
  • Maximum power is adapting your muscles to short bursts of maximal effort

In short, if you continually exercise without rest your body will break down until you are forced to rest. However, since we still need sleep and we have jobs that require us to be present, we can't continually exercise. The period of time when you are not physically involved in exercise is a period of relative rest.

If you bike for two weeks straight, your body is adapting to the stresses and periods of rest you are giving it. In essence you are tuning your body more towards endurance, and dealing with shorter rest periods. That means your body won't have the time to build bigger and stronger muscles, but it will be able to repair the damages done during the period of work and fine tune how it is getting oxygen to your muscles.

If on the other hand you are strength training, or some other form of exercise that requires short bursts of energy, your body's requirements for rest become greater. In short, you are putting stresses that are at the edge of or slightly beyond what your body is equipped to handle. During the periods of rest, your body is building the muscle up to meet those greater demands on it. It is also fine tuning the energy sources that the muscle requires so it is less dependent on aerobic (with oxygen) sources. By continually increasing the weight, you will eventually need longer periods of rest to fully rebuild and adapt to the new weight. In the beginning however, you only need one full day of rest between sessions.

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This pretty much sums it up. Any text book on training will indicate proper rest periods based on atheletic goal. Endurance training calls for very short rest periods. Typically 8-24hours. –  Christopher Bibbs Jul 21 '11 at 15:52
    
The only other thing I can think of is that there is a difference between pain from muscle soreness and pain due to injury. You can safely ignore muscle soreness while you are adapting your body to the new demands. As it gets accustomed to the current rate of change the muscle soreness becomes lessened over time. –  Berin Loritsch Jul 21 '11 at 17:22
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