You’re starting your health and fitness lifestyle, and you're raring to go – you've done your first bit of exercise and now feel like a train’s hit you the next day. De-motivating right? Well, to be honest, some of us – myself included - actually like the ache of working out a lot (for me it makes me feel strong and let me know I've worked hard). Previously when I’ve been periods of time without working out – either due to holiday or sickness - I miss the feel of the body aching!
The point of this little article is to give you some common things to expect – how long for, how to try and mitigate them and whether it gets better.
HINT – the vast majority of the things you experience when you first start training get better the more you train – because your body is a beautiful machine that learns to adapt to the stresses placed upon it.
Let’s address this little elephant in the room. The day after you’ve done a workout, or it might not be until two days after a workout, you get absolutely destroyed by painful aches all over the body – and it sometimes hurts to move! The severity of DOMS will depend on how hard you worked out and whether it’s a type of exercise you had already been used to. If you did a high intensity workout on muscles that haven’t been used since the 1990s – then you’re gonna REALLY feel it. However, if you’ve done a gentle workout to ease yourself in on something you occasionally do anyway, you will get much more reduced DOMS.
What’s causing it?: DOMS are thought to be caused by the tearing and repairing of muscle fibres (don’t worry - this is what’s meant to happen to grow bigger stronger muscles!).
To mitigate: You can prevent them from being so severe, by doing more GENTLE exercise. If you really want to do your HIIT workout though and have already got DOMS, you can try massaging the effected muscles and eating highly nutritious foods. Especially try eating dark leafy greens which contain calcium, and some beans and legumes which are higher in protein, to aide the repair.
You should also make sure you do appropriate warm ups and cool downs to try and prevent the muscles from tightening up and becoming more sore.
Does it get better?: Yes. If you stick to the same routine, you’ll soon find your recovery time is a lot shorter. I barely even get DOMS anymore, because my body has adapted to how I train and knows exactly how to recover from it.
2) Lack of energy
You might find, if you’ve not changed anything other than started to exercise a lot more, you suddenly feel a bit worn out, pretty exhausted and like this lifestyle is totally unsustainable!
What’s causing it?: Likely the increased calorie expenditure, and your muscles actually being used! The muscle ache will make you feel tired/ exhausted anyway, but the higher calorie expenditure will mean you physically have less energy too!
To mitigate: You can counter the lack of energy by, well, eating more energy! If you’re happy to put on fat and or muscle, then eating more nutrient dense calories is a great idea, however I know a lot of you will be wanting to lose weight.
If you’re looking to lose weight then you need a calorie deficit. So this inherently means you will have less energy in your diet than you need. To try and boost your energy levels, make sure you’re eating smart. Swap out the simple carbs (white pasta and rice) for complex carbs (wholemeal pasta and wholegrain rice). The slow releasing of these carbs will mean you have energy being released for longer, reducing the chance of peaks and troughs of energy. Also make sure you’re having nutrient dense calories. Your calories are restricted, so make sure you’re getting as many vitamins and minerals as possible from what you are eating – and remember b vitamins will boost your energy levels!
Sleep more. Often when people are feeling tired it's because they are chronically tired anyway. How many of you really struggle with your alarm clock in the morning? That’s likely a sign you’re not getting enough sleep. Try getting to bed earlier and just letting your sleep routine gradually catch up. At first you may take longer to get to sleep but, as your body adapts, it will improve. Read my article on getting better quality sleep here, if you’re interested!
Does it get better?: Again, yes. The body is such a wonderful thing, it becomes more efficient. It learns how to work out and exercise using fewer calories. Whilst the more important things are to fuel your body correctly and get enough rest, it will get easier, I promise!
3) Getting injured
One of the highest risk times of injury is when you first start working out. You’ll be going out there with the best of intentions to get into shape, but then when it comes to it, you think yeahh lets do this! Then ping – a tendon goes or a muscle tears *and not in the good way*.
What’s causing it?: This could be a multitude of reasons. The most common though are: not warming up properly; lifting too heavy too soon; not resting enough or not using the correct form. If any of these are ringing any bells, then please do read on to see how to mitigate them!
How to mitigate these: Firstly, take it slow. Make sure you know what you are doing, with the correct form and the correct weight level. You aren’t gonna be as strong as the guy/girl who’s been going to the gym for 5 years solid. Be sensible and take it slowly.
Also – as I can’t stress enough – make sure you warm up! That means even if it’s boiling hot outside, get limbered up and the hear blood pumping. If you want more info on warm ups, take a read of my article on warm ups here and my article on stretching here. Resting is also hella important. At first you’ll need longer rest periods, possibly quite a bit longer than when you’ve been doing it a while. Low and behold, I’ve also done an article on rest days here!
Does it get better?: As I alluded to above – yes. As you get stronger, your tendons, bones and muscles will all get stronger, meaning they are less likely to get injured. You’ll also perfect your technique over time and get to understand what your body can and can’t take. Stretches and warm ups will always be important though – so make sure you do them!
All in all, what I'm trying to say is to say at first you need to be careful, and understand that all these things get better the more you persevere and are consistent with your training. Once you get past the initial stage – there’s gonna be no stopping you!