Should I abandon my half-assed fitness regimen on the second day?
February 23, 2011 10:11 AM   Subscribe

After a lifetime of indifferent body maintenance I am engaging in a fitness regimen of sorts. One day in and I am extremely sore. What am I in for? What should I do?

OK, so, I walk a lot and am in generally good health, straight up 'normal' BMI, but this is probably the first intentional exercise I've gotten in ten years. I am doing the 100 push-ups thing, using an app. My initial test I was able to do 6 good push-ups (quiet, you). The app told me to do 5 sets on my first day with 60 seconds of rest between them - I think the sets were 6, 5, 5, 6, 7. I did them, but only. The app told me to take a day of rest, I did and I was very sore, and today (the day of the next set of push-ups) I can barely imagine trying to do a bunch of push-ups. I am extremely sore.

I've always been a "what put it in will take it out" person about muscle soreness - if you are sore from shoveling snow then shoveling snow will get you unsore, and so forth. Is that the case with this? Am I going to do my sets of push-ups today and feel somewhat better? Or am I going to try, fail, and be even more sore? Or am I going to be able to do it but then spend two days mincing around in even worse pain, and keep repeating that cycle for the whole six weeks of this program? Or should I not try at all?

Is there anything else I should or should not do?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, unless you are actually injured, working out will cause the pain to decrease. And after a week or two you won't have that crazy soreness. If you give up now, you'll just have to go through the pain again later...
posted by shrabster at 10:14 AM on February 23, 2011

Speaking as a slob who occasionally gets a few weeks into 100 pushups or similar before giving it up for 6 months, your first-day soreness is as bad as it gets. You've just exercised muscles you've never used before, and they hate it the first time but they'll get used to it. You'll still get bit sore after each bout of exercise, but it won't be as intense as the first time and you'll soon be able to convince yourself you like the feeling.
Maybe if you're not feeling up to it when you get around to Week 1 Day 2, just do what you can for the rest of this week, and start Week 1 again next week - you'll find it much less painful second time around and will likely hit your Day2 and Day 3 targets without significant pain.
posted by nowonmai at 10:20 AM on February 23, 2011

It definitely gets better. Even if you only do a few pushups today, it gets your body used to the idea of working out.

Also, just my personal experience, but I found the 100 pushups program a bit steep for me; I went from easily doing Week 2 to barely being able to do week 4.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 10:24 AM on February 23, 2011

As someone that took to sports in mid-life, and did some research on the subject when I did, one thing I discovered is that it is important to pitch your training at the right level. The "more pain = more gain" philosophy is out-dated and counter-productive. In fact trying too much too soon leads to levels of discomfort that has people give up, quite apart from risks of injuring yourself or worse.

How to determine the right level is another matter, and it depends whether you're doing cardiovascular or strength training. Not sure what this app is that you are using or what info you fed it that led it suggest 100 push-ups on day 1, but that sounds way over the top for a first set.

Try this site to get an idea of what sort of training prog to follow.

From personal experience, the number of days it takes you to recover will fall as your body adapts, but at first it could take several days or even most of the week to get back to 100% after a major session.
posted by philipy at 10:27 AM on February 23, 2011

I asked a very similar question after starting to go to they gym regularly for the first time. It's about 5 months later and I don't even notice any special soreness anymore unless I go crazy.
posted by smackfu at 10:29 AM on February 23, 2011

In general, the soreness will decrease with time so long as you keep at it.

With what you're feeling specifically, you're right in that doing the same activity that made you sore will lessen your soreness. You should so some push-ups today but don't push it like you did yesterday. IIRC, there is something about the work-out, muscle repair cycle that keeps any further workout on the damaged muscles from doing any good for 48-72 hours. Ah ha, found it! [via]

You want to get some similar but lighter exercise not to stress the muscles again but just to loosen them up a little. You might try doing them "girly style" with your knees on the floor or find some other way to lessen the load a little.
posted by VTX at 10:30 AM on February 23, 2011

As the others are stating this will get better, generally the soreness will shift from "Holy shit I can't move my arms" to something more manageable within a week or two.

While programs such as 100 push ups are great ways to get started at working out. They tend to fail a bit when they are entirely focused on one exercise (and therefore one muscle group). Most folks who do heavy strength training will only work one body part once or twice a week in order to give the muscle adequate rest. So don't be ashamed to do "week 1" 2 or 3 times and taking extra rest between the days until your muscles acclimate to the exercise. (Don't ever be afraid of adjusting a workout program to suit your actual fitness level).

Add some pull ups to the mix or some other cardio exercises on off days if you want to keep your general fitness progress going.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2011

This is a great reason to take breaks in your training schedule. At this point, you should be shooting for every other day or 3-4 days a week in order to give your body time to heal and adapt to the change in your activity level.

As long as you're not, like "can't get out of bed" sore, going back to it after a day or two might actually feel good. Don't think of sore as a scary thing, but as mentioned upthread, a sign that your body is getting stronger.
posted by Sara C. at 10:35 AM on February 23, 2011

When I was in college I had a job that was basically lifting and carrying around huge heavy boxes for 8 hours a day. I was so sore for the first week I was actually worried that I would be permanently disabled or in pain every day I kept the job. Of course, it went away, I got stronger, and I was totally fine.

I think you'll be able to distinguish between regular soreness and injury soreness. Obviously if you injure yourself, don't keep going through that. But regular soreness, I think if you just push through or take a day or so off, it'll go away.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:37 AM on February 23, 2011

I would definitely suggest some light chest excercises to loosen everything up (to me that means push-ups, and I am going to assume you dont have access to weights, so maybe so some girly push-ups to get the juices going). Then focus the bulk of your work out on other muscle groups to give your pectorals time to rest for a day. I would suggest crunches and or squats without any weight added.

Remember that soreness means you are building more muscle, you should be proud of the soreness.
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:37 AM on February 23, 2011

Just stick with it. Acute soreness generally lessens after warming up the exercise. Longer term, the soreness will lessen as long as you're eating and sleeping well.

Congratulations on starting an exercise routine. If you decide you like strength training, I'd advise you to look for a full-body training program soon, as a pushup-only program neglects a lot of important musculature and isn't a great long-term plan.

IIRC, there is something about the work-out, muscle repair cycle that keeps any further workout on the damaged muscles from doing any good for 48-72 hours. Ah ha, found it! [via]

Doing some pushups is unlikely to represent the type of systemic stress that article is referencing when it talks about recovery periods. Doing something like squatting, benching, and deadlifting on the same day represents a much different training stimulus than doing 5 sets of pushups, and they require different recovery approaches. There's nothing wrong with taking rest days, but pushups can definitely be done every day.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 10:41 AM on February 23, 2011

When I was in college I had a job that was basically lifting and carrying around huge heavy boxes for 8 hours a day. I was so sore for the first week I was actually worried that I would be permanently disabled or in pain every day I kept the job. Of course, it went away, I got stronger, and I was totally fine.

Which calls to mind this question I asked last summer. Granted, I did get a new pair of shoes, but overall my feet and legs adapted to the strain and my problems went away on their own. This will probably also be the case for your exercise regimen, OP.
posted by Sara C. at 10:49 AM on February 23, 2011

As others have said, the first day is always the worst. This is true even if you're used to working out but you take a couple weeks off -- the first workout back hurts like crazy! I find it's best to ease into exercise if I haven't been doing it: better to start at half or two-thirds of what I can do and then steadily move up from there, rather than pushing it and then taking extra days off due to the pain.

tl;dr: Keep at it. If you really cannot stand it, maybe do knee-pushups today, or half your workout (try for 5 sets of 2 or 3 pushups), and then try to get back on schedule next time.

Make sure you're getting plenty of protein, too. Eat a good dinner and get plenty of rest. I also find that drinking a milk/whey shake right after each workout makes a noticeable difference with the next day's DOMS... might be overkill for 100 pushups, but hey, if you're really hurting it's worth a try, and it's probably good for you anyway.
posted by vorfeed at 10:51 AM on February 23, 2011

Good advice above. I'd also add that if you decide to take a day or more "off" from pushups, don't be completely sedentary.

Go for a walk or jog if you can. The additional circulation the walk or jog will generate will help your muscles heal faster.
posted by de void at 10:54 AM on February 23, 2011

Definitely stick with it. To help you over the sore-muscle hump, be sure you're drinking enough water and, if you can get your hands on it, try Arnica, a homeopathic remedy that's been a lifesaver for me.
posted by Paris Elk at 11:05 AM on February 23, 2011

I actually really like the sore-muscle feeling, if its not injury of course. A lot of others that work out also relish in the soreness.
posted by bwvoss at 11:21 AM on February 23, 2011

Wait until the soreness isn't acute (a couple days), then do day 1 again. If need be to get the reps, wait longer than 60 seconds. Stretch this out until you're back at the start of a week, then proceed with the 100pu schedule. I used to bang out pushups like breathin' air, and the first day I tried 100PU I felt like I'd been punched repeatedly.

I will warn you though, it gets pretty tough about week four or five. You may have to rest (stay stationary at the top of a pushup) mid-set for a couple huffy breaths in order to get the set done.
posted by notsnot at 11:40 AM on February 23, 2011

seconding the 'good god 100 pushups god why?' sentiment...sounds all of: greuling. boring. and ineffective. (excepting the one muscle group)...if you're like me (and well, just about everyone else on the planet), you're doing the whole workout bit to look hotter, no? start here. (it's not as dirty as the stores that sell it look like...i.e. no nudity, but lots of body glitter and silly costumes)'s 20 minutes. it's not hard or greuling. it's fun. it's a good light mix of calisthenics, aerobics, stretching, yoga, and yes, even a few pushups. ...and in six weeks you will look hotter than you ever have.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:27 PM on February 23, 2011

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