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The Science Behind Workouts That “Hurt So Good,” And Why We Love The Pain

You've said it. I've said it. Everybody's felt it.

It hurts so good.

You feel it in the sweet heat in your muscles after a particularly long, challenging gym session.

First of all, let me be clear in saying that, by no means, am I campaigning for that whole “push it to the brink,” “no pain no gain” mentality.

My personal favorite workout involves walking around a park listening to Perfume Genius, for goodness' sakes.

What's most important is cultivating an awareness of how your body feels as you move, and having that act as a guide to your limitations as you engage in any kind of exercise.

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Wherever your body is at, that's rad. Being present to it is pretty much the hardest, but most rewarding part of getting to move it in a way that both challenges and rewards you.

That being said, while there have certainly been times when I've experienced muscle soreness that makes me want to fall asleep in a tub of ice until I freeze away all bodily sensations, most of the time, feeling a little ache after exercise makes me feel good about the movement I've done.

Is that enjoyment a sense of accomplishment, maybe? A little proof to myself that I'm getting stronger? And is there actually anything to back up this age-old workout adage?

The Answer Is, Well, Kind Of, But Not Really

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Elite Daily spoke with personal trainer and TRX instructor, Michael Mackin of MMfitness.ie, who says those “hurt so good” feelings are really related to what's being released in your brain when you exercise.

He explains,

A chemical called dopamine gets released when you exercise. It is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in pleasure and happiness.

When we exercise, the production of dopamine increases.

It's one of the most pleasant, natural highs the body can possibly experience.

Plus, Moving Your Body Can Be Enough To Boost Your Confidence

But there's a tiny bit of a catch here.

As far as your sore muscles are concerned, Mackin says, soreness doesn't necessarily correlate with muscle growth, and in fact, can be less of a good thing than you might think.

That soreness is more commonly known in the fitness world as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Mackin says people often refer to DOMS as proof of a good session, but it can actually reduce the amount of times a person can exercise or train.

The soreness can, in fact, be a result of poor sleep and lack of adequate hydration.

So the next time your glutes “hurt so good” after a solid 45 minutes on the StairMaster, feel free to bask in that sweaty, confident glow all you want.

But be sure you're replenishing your body with plenty of fluids, restful sleep, and, of course, the occasional rest day.

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Annakeara Stinson

Staff Writer

Annakeara is a writer and all around barrel of laughs based in Brooklyn.
Annakeara is a writer and all around barrel of laughs based in Brooklyn.

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