Shouldn't I be feeling stronger by now?
February 17, 2014 9:59 AM   Subscribe

YANMTrainer, YANMDoctor, etc. I've been part of a fitness bootcamp for more than a year. We do pretty intense one-hour workouts - a ton of stairstepping, jumping, sprinting, uphill sprints - 2 or 3 times a week. Even after a year, I am ALWAYS uncomfortably sore for multiple days after a workout. Which means I am always sore - usually in my calves and hamstrings, and so tired that I don't want to do any other physical activity. This isn't normal, is it?

I'm in my early 30s and super into fitness. But the exercise I've done before has been more of the aerobics/dance/pilates variety, and I didn't feel any more than the "Oh, I really worked that muscle" soreness afterwards. Certainly didn't want to avoid walking or running the rest of the time. It energized me, didn't wear me out.

This bootcamp is much more high-impact and intense, and has a lot more running (which I've never been into). But I'm only doing it 2 or 3 times a week -- surely that's enough time for my body to recover. Why are my calves and hamstrings always aching? Should I be doing more stretching? Is it possible that my body just isn't built for bootcamp-style workouts and it's not anything I'm doing wrong, I should just look for another type of workout?
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe it's your sneakers?
posted by spunweb at 10:06 AM on February 17, 2014

You say you're exhausted--is it possible that you are not eating enough to compensate for such intense workouts?
posted by inertia at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2014

What you are feeling is normal. Bootcamp (and pre-season training) are designed to only be done temporarily, not year round.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 10:21 AM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

This may be obvious, but are you getting better at the workouts? Jumping higher? Doing more reps? Getting up the hill faster?

The nature of bootcamp workouts seems to be to push individuals to their limits during the workout, so your limits may be getting higher, but if you're still being pushed to them, you're still going to be sore when you're done.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:24 AM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

How sore are we talking? Painful cramping, can't-go-up-stairs sore? Mildly warm and stiff? If we're talking REALLY sore then no, that's not normal. I would check the following:

- Are you sleeping 7+ hours/night?
- Are you drinking enough water?
- Are you intaking enough salts, especially potassium?
- Are you eating enough calories?

If you're not doing one or more of the following that could be impacting your recovery and increasing soreness. Even if you think you're doing enough try sleeping more, eating more, drinking more, and getting more potassium to see if it helps. Potassium tip: "Lite" salt, like Morton's Lite Salt is a great way to increase your potassium intake without mainlining bananas. Sprinkle some on your food or add a little to water and chug it. Potassium intake is especially a problem if you do low-carb diets.
posted by schroedinger at 10:34 AM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are you stretching a lot? Especially on non-workout days?
posted by itesser at 10:42 AM on February 17, 2014

I'm highly fit, and earlier this year I tried a bootcamp-style workout (The Insanity Workout). After a couple days of doing it and being totally sore and janky, I checked in with a friend who had been doing it for a month who said it still made her so sore and tired that she couldn't go for fun bike rides.

It was at that point I determined that 45-60 minutes a day of HIIT is ridiculous and that my fitness goals were being met by the NYT 7-minute workout (x2) daily, rocking climbing 3x per week, and biking 3-4x per week. I've since added 15 minutes of Shovelglove weight training daily. I am rarely sore.

What are your fitness goals?
posted by MonsieurBon at 10:46 AM on February 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

Thanks all. I am stretching, drinking water, sleeping, eating (more than) enough, etc. I think jacquilynne hit it on the nose - I'm just pushing myself more and more each time - and MonsierBon is right in that I need to figure out what my fitness goals are. You can be fit without pushing yourself to the limit with every workout.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 11:06 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're actually hoping to get stronger as your title implies, than high-intensity cardio shouldn't be your only (or primary) form of exercise.

You want to lift heavy weights with compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and presses. See the FAQ on for more. You can and should do cardio as well, but it's not going to make you significantly stronger.
posted by callmejay at 11:14 AM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

If a fitness goals happen to include feeling better, stronger, more energetic, etc., it doesn't sound like the current program is working as well as it might. It does sound like you might be overdoing it and could benefit from backing off or trying something else unless soreness and fatigue subside.

I started a bodyweight calisthenics program based on the oft-recommended Convict Conditioning, got too ambitious with squats, and found myself with very similar symptoms to yours.

Once I backed off (which is hard when you've built momentum and want to see progress!), I felt way better and eventually (maybe after a month) was able to make much better progress – in a way that felt healthier and balanced – faster than I was before.

You necessarily don't have to push so hard every time. Don't forget to leave a little bit leftover in the can, so to speak, when you exercise.

I do think that some programs that are in vogue (Crossfit, boot camp, etc.) may cause more harm than good if you're not careful. So, be careful!

And you can always try a foam roller for aches.
posted by suprenant at 1:57 PM on February 17, 2014

You're overtraining. Listen to your body and schedule your training so that your next workout falls during the brief rebound period that follows recovery when you feel more energetic not less. Long term overtraining will hamper your results and lead to injury.

How long you take to recover depends on your unique body, how fit you are, how old you are, how hard you are pushing, how much sleep you get, how well you hydrate, how you manage inflammation, etc. If you want to adhere to a schedule, step it down or be more proactive about helping your body recover.
posted by Manjusri at 8:06 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Last year for the first time I used a heart rate monitor to help me towards my goals (a 11 mile obstacle course race). It was illuminating to get those metrics, and use them to plan and design my workouts. As part of my plan I would track distances run and have target heart rate zones to be in, so I was able to see that after an hour run at a specific rate early in the season, I didn't go near as far as an hour run late in the season. So getting some metrics that are trackable might help you see how much you've improved over the year.

High Intensity Training can be a great way to help get you to your goals, but they should be part of a full program plan, used at specific stages in the plan, or a day or two a week as part of that full plan. At least for the sorts of goals I have (long distance running).
posted by garlic at 12:00 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been doing a similar high intensity bootcamp once a week for over a year (with other stuff too) and my aches cleared up once I started drinking half a pint of milk right after the class. Obviously YMMV but it's cheap!
posted by london explorer girl at 4:32 AM on February 20, 2014

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