The best way to indicate whether someone is a mature athlete or not is to watch how they deal with discomfort. Can they tell the difference between being sore, being tight, and being injured? Can they push themselves intrinsically during lifts? Do they train when they are sick? Do they run to the trainers when they stub their toe? To quote everyone’s grandfather, “This generation doesn’t know how to work.” This is usually true because most people inherently haven’t been placed in an environment where the reality is work hard or fail. If Granddad didn’t go to work when he had a cold, his family wouldn’t eat that night. The same urgency has to be placed on training. That getting training in is so crucial to your survival as an athlete that missing a session can only occur when training will impact your ability to train in the future. So the short answer, is yes, suck it up and throw when you are sore. However there are some considerations regarding soreness and how to optimize your training session when sore.
Are you sore or injured?
It takes experience to determine whether you are sore, tight, or injured sometimes. It is important to note however, that if you have indeed injured something, it is important to get it looked at. Pushing through the pain of a pulled muscle will drastically set back your recovery. You will usually know when you have injured a muscle. Even if you are unsure, you should get it looked at quickly to confirm it is not something more than what you think. However, sometimes in the middle of training you or the coach has to make a quick judgement call to see if it is worth ending training to get it looked at. Here are some quick measures you can use:
Do you feel it on both sides of the body? Very rarely will you pull the same muscle on both sides of the body. You are probably just sore if both of your hamstrings are tight.
Does it get worse or better after warming up? If it gets worse, there’s a good chance it’s more than just soreness. If it starts to get better after moving around, it is probably just tightness.
Is it worse after 3 days? If the pain wasn’t much on the first couple days but on the fourth day it is still significant, you should get medical attention.
Is the pain topical or deep? Sometimes a beginner athlete will just have a bruise and will think it is the muscle. Asking how the incident occured will usually determine if it is a bruise from some sort of impact or something more.
Again, if a trainer is nearby it is better to get it cleared before risking making an injury worse. If you are certain it is not an injury, or if it is just a topical injury and training will not affect it, you should deal with the discomfort and finish your workout. Also if there is a nagging injury, having good communication with the trainer on how far to push it and what to stay away from will help keep your workload high while continuing recovery.
Warming up with soreness
Yesterday was the first day of a new leg workout. Your glutes, quads, and groin all flare up in pain every time you take a step let alone throw. This is a very common occurrence during fall practices as throwers are getting back into the swing of training. Start by getting in a more thorough warm up before throwing. Maybe do a little jogging to get the blood flowing, do some bodyweight squats, cossack squats, and jump lunges to get loosened up at deep ranges of motion. Although doing a lot of stretching might feel good, save them for after training as to prevent the muscles from tightening up mid session. After the warm up, take some easy throws to loosen up the specific muscles to the throw. The first couple are going to feel like you can’t possibly move, but the more you take the easier they will get.
Training with soreness
Most likely when you are sore, you are not going to be setting big PR’s that day in training. However, there have been times when I started out a session barely being able to move, and by the end I would be feeling good and crushing throws. Think of soreness as another variable to switch up the monotony of training. The throw is going to feel very different when you are sore, so you will be forced to use different feelings and possibly different movements to accomplish the same goals in the circle. Using a different approach to your technique might spark a feeling that you have been missing which will carry over to throws on a day you are feeling good.
Being sore does force you to have a more technical session rather than going all out. A lot of beginners don’t understand the correlation of their body being “depressed” from training and their throws being short. When they are noticeably sore, it is easier to understand that they are not going to throw far on that day because their body is recovering. The same is often true during a heavy volume phase of training as well. Even if you don’t feel sore, the high load of training on your body will decrease the distance on your throws temporarily. The key when feeling sore or rundown from training is to focus on having a more technical session rather than a smash mode session fishing for practice PR’s.
Recovering from soreness
You just pushed through a tough training session while being sore, started to wind down, and now as your not moving around as much your body is starting to tighten up again. What do you do? Post training it is important to recover properly, whether noticeably sore or not. After the workout make sure to roll out any place you have tightness. Rolling a sore spot can be very painful, but even grazing over the sore spot can increase blood flow to the area and speed up recovery. Rolling is also crucial to maintaining mobility while gaining strength. Don’t become the guy who can bench press 500 lbs. but can’t put the shot in his neck!
After rolling out, the next step is to refuel your body properly. Always eat a meal after training and include a protein shake or high protein foods with it. Most athletes do not get in nearly enough protein in their diets. For athletes training hard for 2-3 hours a day, it is recommended to get in at least 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. That’s 180 grams of protein for someone weighing 100kg or 220lbs. There is a little more than 40g of protein in a chicken breast for comparison. If you have continual stiffness, taking beef gelatin is also a great way to loosen up those joints. The last piece to the puzzle is getting a good night’s sleep. You can’t expect to recover from soreness if you are staying up until 2:00am playing Fortnite and waking up at 8:00am to go to class!
The key to dealing with soreness is being tough enough to push through the discomfort and being smart enough to recover properly. The goal is efficiently - getting as much work in each day while being able to maintain the quality of your training the next day.