Bottom line: having painful, achy legs after a run is very common for most runners. A better way to ask this question is not whether it is normal to hurt, but whether the pain that you feel after running is within the bounds of normal for your level of fitness and experience.
But first, one ground rule to keep in mind: if a pain starts during a run and gets progressively worse, you should stop running. This is a sign that something is wrong. With rubbing, pulling or tearing of muscles, you’ll feel the pain when the problem starts and it will progressively worsen. For example, those of you that suffer from IT Band problems are feeling the rubbing of soft-tissue on bone in the knee and the prolonged exercise makes it hurt more and more over the course of the run. These are not the types of aches and pains that are normal for runners.
The type of aches and pains that we are talking about are the aches and pains that more typically come on after running. These aches and pains are typically the result of your muscles tightening up after a long fatiguing effort, but they aren’t normally associated with any particular trauma or injury. You might also characterize these feelings as soreness, stiffness or tightness.
Usually this type of pain will be most pronounced in your quads (thighs), hamstrings (upper back of leg), hip-flexors, or glutes (the muscles in your butt). Running a long distance down hill, or a series of steep down-hills, will often result in more pain in your quads. Running up hill will work your glutes harder, so they may be more sore. And when running on flat terrain for extended periods of time the hip-flexors may be the most unhappy with you.
Why and when?
Pain in your leg muscles is the direct result of the repetition of running. The longer that you run, the more repetition. The less long-distance running that you’ve done, the less accustomed to it are your legs. After long periods of running, your muscles get fatigued, they run out of muscle energy and they may even get stretched more than normal. After taking thousands, or hundreds of thousands of running steps, the muscles that support your body weight are fatigued, damaged, and in need of repair.
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Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
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