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March 26, 2010 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Newbie to weightlifting seeks relief from awful muscle soreness. Yes, I'm a wimp. But my soreness is almost to the point where I can't do exercises the following day. I know it goes away in time and with repeated lifting, but if I can't lift the next day, I'll keep repeating the cycle!

After acquiring a set of adjustable dumbbells, my boyfriend and I started lifting. We've been aiming to do light workouts 6 days a week, switching between 4-6 upper body exercises on one day and core training and or/lower body exercises on the other day. Since we just started, we've had several off days due to illness and poor planning that left us with no time to work out, but we're (really!) setting a goal to exercise every day.

MOST of the time, my muscles are just sore, and I can power through a next-day workout without a problem. Then we did "burpies," which left my lower abs feel wretched for days on end. The next day, just reclining myself on the weight bench hurt like a bitch, and getting up with weights in my hands was next to impossible. And forget about doing leg raises; I could barely lift my legs off the floor. My boyfriend even lifted my legs FOR ME and when he let go, I just howled like a baby and let them drop to the floor. I had to skip exercising my abs that day. This is the development that concerns me.

This is my first time ever weight lifting, and I haven't exercised much at all this past year, so I'm on the short bus. But I feel like there's a line between sore, ache-y, rarely-been-used muscles and the "oh my god I will hurl out my abs if I do leg raises" kind of pain. I'm worried that if I can't (or won't, as this might be mental) work extra-stiff muscles for many days after the initial session, I'm putting myself in an endless cycle of pain, too much rest, and then starting all over again.

Anecdotes, tips, tricks, advice on pain relievers and mental exercises that will compel me to toughen up are all welcome!
posted by Viola to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
At the beginning of being active you will probably feel some pretty intense soreness the day after or for even longer. This is normal. I have worked out on-and-off for years and everytime I get back on this happens and sometimes I feel it for a week.

Once you get into a cycle of working out at least 3-4 days a week you will not feel this soreness after your workouts. You can work through them or take a day off if you want. But your body should adjust after a little time.
posted by Napierzaza at 10:47 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Try spacing workouts apart, i.e. M-W-F.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:49 AM on March 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

For the first couple weeks, just wait until it stops hurting to work out again. It's okay to be sore or achy and work through it, but if your body is screaming DONT DO THAT IT HURTS, you shouldn't be doing it. Wait a couple days, or 4, or 6, or however many it takes to recover. You don't have to feel 100% but you shouldn't feel 0% either.

You probably should be giving your muscles at least a day to recover after working out anyway. Muscle is built on the "off" days.
posted by jckll at 10:49 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow. You are doing way too much way too soon. You need not do strength exercises 6 times/week, especially if you are just starting out. 3 times/week is sufficient for most people, and the gains in strength over the course of 6 months to a year can be huge.

Go slow. Build incrementally. Get the rest your body needs to grow.

Look, the worst result is that you just quit, right? So build much, much, much more slowly, and stick at it.
posted by ferdydurke at 10:51 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Doing too much too soon. Space out your workouts to give your body adequate time to recover.

And learn to embrace the burn. The pain is your reward for having broken down your body. It means you're getting stronger.
posted by dfriedman at 10:54 AM on March 26, 2010

I think what you're doing wrong is alternating between just two different things. Upper body work and core training.

I go to the gym five days a week and rotate

Day 1: Chest and Triceps
Day 2: Back and Biceps
Day 3: Shoulders
Day 4: Legs
Day 5: Chest and Triceps


Some people combine shoulders and legs.

This way, everything gets proper rest. You need to make sure you're not doing too much pulling or pushing days in a row.

You need to rest your muscles for them to get bigger.
posted by lakerk at 11:00 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

Also, don't worry if you can't keep up with your boyfriend's pace. Just because he recovers faster shouldn't pressure you to do more than your body is telling you to do. We're all different, and sometimes competitiveness can come into workouts, but it really shouldn't, because it can make it unfun and maybe even lead to hurting yourself.
posted by lorrer at 11:01 AM on March 26, 2010

On top of the other stuff, don't underestimate the following:

1) Proper nutrition and a proper balance of fat/carb/protein to help along the muscle rebuilding process.

2) Rest, rest, rest. Just as previously stated by several people. You MUST have a day off every few days. You can work something light on that day (for instance, a little cardio.) but don't use the previously worked muscle groups any more than your standard day-to-day living would warrant. You can potentially push beyond hypertrophy into injury. How much would you be able to work out then?
posted by alcoth at 11:14 AM on March 26, 2010

Stretch! Stretch before. Stretch during. Stretch after. Stretch later in the day. Open up those muscles and let the blood flow carry away the lactic acid and deposit the protein.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:25 AM on March 26, 2010

Well, it sounds like your programming doesn't make a lot of sense. How did you come up with this program you're doing? Did you make it up? If you don't have much background or experience, you're not necessarily going to know how to come up with an effective program. I'd suggest getting some coaching, doing something tried and true, or doing some research into how to design a program. For that, I recommend Practical Programming for Strength Training.

As alcoth says, food and sleep are necessary for recovery. If you don't recover, you don't get stronger. Fish oil has been known to help with muscle soreness as well.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:26 AM on March 26, 2010

Oops, here's the right link to that book.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:29 AM on March 26, 2010

This sounds like you are way overdoing it. Some soreness is expected, but not to the degree you are expressing. Try using lighter weights and doing less reps for now.
posted by lawhound at 11:49 AM on March 26, 2010

It gets better. It really does. Space out your workouts, just try to move around and get the blood flowing on the off days (seriously, if all you can do is walk a few laps around the living room, do that,) stay hydrated, and don't worry about it too much.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:09 PM on March 26, 2010

Have a google for "hard gainer".

Many of the weightlifting ideas people have come from workouts designed for big buff men who put on muscle when they blink. You're not a big buff man, so you need to train differently.

For example, this FAQ claims that you should have a clear day AFTER all the "systemic fatigue" has gone from the previous session, before attempting anything else.
posted by emilyw at 12:10 PM on March 26, 2010

Just want to nth the people who say it gets better. I started strength training in November and at first I could barely walk the next 3 days, due to DOMS after an intense training session. This was the usual for the first, oh, month or so. I scheduled leg exercises for Fridays specifically because I knew I could have Saturday and Sunday to recover before having to walk again on Monday. It was ridiculous.

Now I can train super hard and just be mildly sore the next day. Don't let the soreness dissuade you from lifting, but I second everyone who is saying you're overdoing it a little to start out, by training 6 times a week. Maybe alternate lifting with pilates or cardio?

It really will go away, sooner or later. As someone who gets absurdly sore, more sore than any of my friends, nothing comes close to the soreness of those first few weeks of training.
posted by np312 at 12:20 PM on March 26, 2010

emilyw, I don't think the idea of being a "hardgainer" has much to do with it. That said, I agree with your second statement, but I'd tweak it thusly:

Many of the weightlifting ideas people have come from workouts designed for big buff steroid-taking men who put on muscle when they blink. You're not a big buff man taking steroids, so you need to train differently.

I'd also disagree with people telling the OP just stick with it. The OP wasn't detailed enough about her program to make specific recommendations about, but too much training volume is too much training volume, and it's just going to lead to failure and/or injury eventually. 6 training sessions a week doesn't make a lot of sense for a beginner unless you've got a really good reason for it.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:28 PM on March 26, 2010

Of course you do a stretching routine before working with the weights. I've found that it's just as important to go through the same routine after the lifting work, so that you cool down gradually and maintain muscle and joint flexibility. At least for me, this greatly reduces soreness the next day.
posted by KRS at 1:05 PM on March 26, 2010

Yeah. Stop nthing the idea that she should stick with it. Six days with two different workouts each alternating day is a terrible idea.
posted by lakerk at 1:21 PM on March 26, 2010

You need to rest. Don't work out every day, just 3 times a week is good. Consider the days off your reward days for working out the previous day. You are pushing your body too hard and are going to end up injuring yourself.
posted by Joh at 1:26 PM on March 26, 2010

You shouldn't be lifting for the same muscle groups every day anyway. in general, though, learn to live the soreness. It means you're getting stronger.
posted by cmoj at 2:21 PM on March 26, 2010

Are you getting some protein immediately after each workout? A protein shake right after lifting helps rebuild muscle fibers, and thus helps minimize pain the next day -- I'm a female lifter, too, and it makes a noticeable difference for me. Get some good protein powder and a blender bottle. Add water or (preferably) milk, shake it up, and drink it once you're finished with your workout. Also, be sure you're getting a solid, protein-rich meal for dinner that night.

I'm with ludwig_van and lakerk, though: 6 times a week is too much. You should get at least a day's rest between working out the same body part... and for a beginner, I'd recommend at least a day's rest between workouts, period. Rest is when you actually get stronger; you don't want to skimp on that. And working out when fatigued makes it easy to compromise your form and hurt yourself, which could lead to a lot more than a day off.

Switch to three times a week, and get plenty of rest on your off days. It'll only make you stronger, because you're overtraining to the point where pain is preventing you from getting a full workout. In six months or a year, once you're used to lifting, you can think about moving to more frequent alternating workouts if you want to... but for now, stick with M/W/F or Su/T/Th.

My rule of thumb is: when it comes to weightlifting, don't sacrifice quality for quantity.
posted by vorfeed at 3:59 PM on March 26, 2010

Lactic acid build after working out up causes muscle soreness.

Potassium / bananas reduces lactic acid.

Old school
posted by pianomover at 7:38 PM on March 26, 2010

It'll get better. Everyone has said mostly sensible things here. I was sore for about 2 years the last time I switched up my routine (to a very challenging one) and I'm back to being sore now after coming off an injury. An interesting aside: due to my injury I need to ice the area after every workout, but lacking easy access to ice I end up running it under the icy cold water of the shower. It could be that I am working that leg a lot less, but I have noticed this week that the DOMS in my affected leg (the one that gets most of the cold after-workout shower) is significantly less than that in my other leg. So, in the future if you do something particularly hard that you believe is likely to cause a lot of next-day pain, try applying some cold to it immediately after to see what happens.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:12 PM on March 26, 2010

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