I have a love-hate relationship with ab exercises. I know that in performing them I'm strengthening my core, which is beneficial to runners, helps improve my posture, and generally makes me stronger. But as good as I feel in the moment of my ab exercises, I almost always feel it the next day. And as of late, when I decided to toss myself into a core challenge, I started to notice this soreness a little more than normal.
"Muscle soreness, for any muscle group, occurs when the muscle experiences microscopic tears in its fibers due to exercise," explained Jenna Morris, NASM CPT and master trainer at YogaSix. "These tears are then in need of repair and recovery post-workout. While tears might sound scary, this is a natural response in the muscle when you exercise at a high enough intensity, which is necessary in order to create strength in the body and change the shape of the muscle."
She reminded me that especially in muscle groups that haven't been worked out in a while or are being challenged in a new way, soreness will be very apparent — sometimes in as little as a few hours post-exercise (hence why I've been feeling the aches a tad more than normal with my more intense ab workouts).
What's more, Morris noted that if we no longer experience soreness after a workout, that may be a good indication that it's time to switch things up with heavier weights, a different exercise, a change in the type of resistance, or even working out at a different time of day to spice things up. So although I may not love the soreness I get from my ab workouts, it's there for a reason: I'm pushing myself and priming my muscles to get stronger.
Until I'm strong enough not to feel the burn, I'll be rolling out my yoga mat, tossing on my stretchable joggers like the UA Meridian Joggers ($75), and working on my recovery. Check out the four moves Morris shared with me to help ease and loosen my screaming muscles after ab day.
- Lie flat on your belly and prop yourself up on your elbows, aligning them directly beneath your shoulders so that your forearms are parallel to each other. If your abs are very sore, this will be all you need.
- If you don't feel much, consider pressing into the palms to lift your elbows off of the ground, being mindful of keeping the shoulders out of the ears and the hips heavy on the ground. If that causes discomfort in the lower back, return to your elbows.
- Come to kneel on your shin bones with your knees and feet hip distance apart.
- Place your hands on your hips and hug your elbows back behind you.
- Start by lifting your heart up toward the sky as you extend the spine and lean backward, keeping your hips stacked above your knees.
Low Lunge With a Side Bend
- Come into a lunge stance with one foot forward and the opposite knee on the ground behind you.
- Several variations can be done from here, the simplest being to keep your hands on your hips as you tilt your tailbone toward the ground and lift your chest up to the sky.
- To stretch your obliques, lift your arms overhead and lean in the direction of your bent front leg.
- You could even take that same side arm toward the floor to the side of your mat as your opposite arm continues to reach overhead.
- From standing, step your feet about four feet apart.
- Turn your right toes to the front of your mat and keep your left toes pointing to the long left side of your mat.
- Bend into your right knee and float your arms up to shoulder height.
- As you flip your right palm to the sky, slide your left hand down your left leg as your right arm reaches to the front of your mat, stretching into the right side body.