How to Continue Training Your Legs When They Are Too Sore

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. K.K. Chinn, the commanding general of U.S. Army South, participates in the CEO Caucus Challenge Cancer Awareness Ride in Belmopan, Belize.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. K.K. Chinn, the commanding general of U.S. Army South, participates in the CEO Caucus Challenge Cancer Awareness Ride in Belmopan, Belize, April 8, 2016. (Spc. Zakia Gray/U.S. Army photo)

This week is another lesson about listening to your body. You may find nagging aches and pains when you train regularly, several days a week, during your years of fitness training. This was one of those such weeks when the buildup of a running cycle required a little pullback. I like to call these weeks a "de-load week," as it sounds like I planned it, but I just needed it.

After Monday, something was not quite right in my hips, so I altered my training week accordingly. After three consecutive mobility days, the big nonimpact cardio day was the fifth day of the week. Here is what the week looked like:

Monday was a full-body calisthenics and running day. After the squats, lunges and running at moderate volume, my hips were talking to me. Trust me, you have to listen to these discussions, as ignoring them typically means that ache will start yelling and you have to stop after creating a full-blown, overuse injury.

The training plans for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday changed to a mobility day for all three days as the hips were just not feeling up to running or doing calisthenics or lifting. The mobility days looked like this each day:

Repeat 4-5 times.

  • Biking, the elliptical machine or walking backward on treadmill for five minutes
  • Stretching, foam rolling or a massage tool for five minutes.

The workout above offered relief but not to the point where I felt like running again the following day. After the above, cooling off in the pool while mixing in treading, aqua-jogging and swimming was also helpful and allowed for a good cardio source with zero gravity impact. Very therapeutic.

We normally have a mobility day scheduled on Thursday, so I repeated the day again for a third time.

After three days of listening to my body, not sitting too long during the day and adding gentle movement like walking, stretching and massaging, I felt ready to try running. We started on soft ground (grass and dirt) and it was not too bad, but limited running to only 20 minutes with some walking and stretching spread throughout.

To add in more cardio, I went all-in on the non-impact options offered in our gym. Here are how the four nonimpact events went:

  • Bike: 20 minutes, mixing in some fast minutes and recovery minutes. The goal was to burn 100 calories every 10 minutes or less.
  • Elliptical machine: Burn 200 calories as quickly as possible. Got on a pace of burning 10 calories per minute with moderate elevation and resistance.
  • Rowing: 20 minutes of rowing for max distance.
  • Swimming: 20 minutes of swimming for max distance, plus five minutes of aqua-jogging and five minutes of dynamic stretches in chest deep water.

I realize not everyone has two hours to train, nor do you need to. You can cut all of the above in half and get it done in an hour if you have all of the options. If you are missing one, you can also replace it with walking for the fourth option.

The moral of the story is to work smartly so you do not end up so injured that you cannot do any of the above options of cardio training. Now, tomorrow is a new day, and feeling like getting back into running, squatting and lunging is not going to be the challenge that it was after Monday.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues