first-week workout aches
July 14, 2010 9:10 PM   Subscribe

When starting to work out again after a long period of physical laziness, how to pace yourself to minimize aching?
posted by moorooka to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I started back into exercise after a long illness with toxic mold with the couch to 5k program which has running times and scheduled rests. I've also done the hundred pushup challenge (and some of its sister programs) which tell you number of reps and have rest built in as well. Another program could be strong lifts 5x5 or a scaled Crossfit program.

Listen to your body. If you have concerns, you should talk to your doctor. If you have no clue what you are doing, hire a personal trainer at a gym for a few sessions. Injury will put you out longer than any gains made by over-doing it.
posted by quodlibet at 9:17 PM on July 14, 2010

If you're lifting, I'd do a week where you remind your body what the exercises are, at very low weights. Embarrassing low, even. For example, you might want to bench press just the bar (assuming you normally do more), to remind your body of the movements it will be making.
posted by null terminated at 9:45 PM on July 14, 2010

I always joke that I get more sore than most people, but I swear, I feel like I am the most sore person in the world when I go back after a long layoff.

I find the two keys for me are to keep exercising and the (recent to me) discovery of icyhot. I don't know what it does to me...maybe just lets my muscles relax, but the next day after I use it I am not sore at all anymore.

Also, I good yin yoga class when you are really sore from exercise feels awesome.
posted by Edubya at 9:52 PM on July 14, 2010

Start light: do your usual workout with light weights and/or shorter duration to begin with, and increase slowly but steadily as you go. Don't let yourself skip workouts if you can help it, because stopping again will only prolong the pain. Get some extra sleep and eat tons of extra protein -- I find that both of these help minimize aching. The first two weeks are the worst... after that, you'll adjust, and you won't feel it as much.
posted by vorfeed at 11:15 PM on July 14, 2010

Dive in deep and get it over with. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) just happens. If you stimulate as hard as you can then your body will be used to that. If you keep increasing intensity\weight in baby steps you'll just be less sore but over a period of weeks.

Best ways to prevent\help recovery are:
Day of:
Warm up very well before lifting
Cold bath or showers after lifting
Stretching before and after lifting

Day after:
Light lifting
Hot shower\baths
Anything that increase blood flow =]
posted by zephyr_words at 1:14 AM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have just started exercising again regularly, after numerous attempts over the last two or three years. What used to happen was I wouldn't do anything for months, then go out for a run and really go for it, running 3 or 4 miles continuously and coming back to the house a sweaty, gasping mess. Cue four or five days of really sore muscles and a distinct lack of will to repeat this self-flaggelation (which is what it is really, attempting to serve penance for my laziness).

That has changed with three things. Firstly, I'm using the Couch to 5k programme and plan to go from that to the Couch to 10k programme. Both of these are focused on slowly and surely building muscle strength and stamina through walk/run alternation. It's really, really working for me. I'm getting a good workout without destroying myself, and I'm already feeling the benefits of expanded lung capacity and less soreness as I go on.

Secondly, I use an iPhone app which automatically plays me cues, mixed in with my music, as to when to run/walk etc. It means I can just zone out and run without staring at a stopwatch. This is critical for me - I'm not massively into timing myself etc, so having to run with a stopwatch would make this a real chore for me. The app does it all automatically and I can just focus on the best running technique and maintaining pace.

Finally, I'm trying to lead a more active life generally. I take 'rest' days between C25K days, but I try to go for a swim, long walk or something else physical (even if it's just digging in the garden) every single day, aside from one weekend day when I don't have to do anything, although I often do anyway.

I'm also personally motivated by losing weight - I bought a set of scales for the first time in my adult life and I'm tracking my weight loss with Weightbot.

Oh, and stretching - can't emphasise that enough. For example, I had super-stiff muscles yesterday and five minutes of long, steady stretching this morning was enough to get me ready to run two miles.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:00 AM on July 15, 2010

Choose a low-impact activity, like walking, biking or swimming - I like the elliptical.

Take ibuprofen before you work out.

Stretch well & warm up.

Start small. Only do 10 to 15 minutes the first day. Add a minute each day.

Cool down and stretch even more.

Lather, rinse, repeat until you work up to a comfortable level.

The key is not to do so much that you are sore to the point that you don't want to work through it the next day/time.

And I too, think yoga is wonderful when you are sore.

Good Luck!
posted by inquisitrix at 5:50 AM on July 15, 2010

Take it light and slow for the first few days... If you had a routine in the past, stick to it, but scale it back. Also be sure to stretch well after you're done. I can't stress how much this helped me when I started working out again after a long period of laziness. I've also found that properly hydrating before and after, along with a banana or two after your workout will help reduce muscle soreness to tolerable levels.
posted by ganzhimself at 7:03 AM on July 15, 2010

I started lifting weights 4 weeks ago, and I've been doing the oft-mentioned Stronglifts 5x5 program. It has you start with an empty barbell (45lbs) and add 5lbs on every workout. This means you:
1) learn proper form while the weight is light, which will be important when things get heavy
2) minimize soreness so you don't get discouraged
3) look hilarious on workout #2 when you add 5lbs to the squat bar, which means you have a 2.5lb plate on each end. Empty bar? That guy's just working on form. Wait, now he has a couple 2.5lb plates, what the fuck?

Anyway, it's working for me pretty well so far. I'm not sore yet, and the bar is getting heavier every time I work out. It's slow progress, but it's progress.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:28 AM on July 15, 2010

Working out when I'm actually sore seems to help the soreness go away. I try never to skip a second workout because of soreness cuz I know I'll feel better after.
posted by Brittanie at 10:02 AM on July 15, 2010

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