In front of the glare of a computer screen, you are sweating your way through an intense virtual workout, and every muscle in your body is complaining. Have you inadvertently thrown your back out? Or is this what your body is supposed to feel like after all those leg lifts and planks? How do you read your body when there is no instructor around to assess your condition? This article will answer those questions, and dispel the misconception behind pain = result.
Why do you hurt during a workout? Contrary to popular opinion, lactic acid build-up is not the reason for the muscle soreness that you get after a bout of strenuous exercise. Extreme exertion can trigger a metabolic process, which enables the body to break down stored fuel for energy. This results in the generation of lactate and other metabolites, raising the acidity levels of our cells and producing a burning sensation in the active muscles. This is a natural, but painful signal to stop overworking your body, inducing a rest period in which the body recovers from the lactate and other metabolites.
We often believe that if we don’t ache during and after a workout, then there won’t be any tangible results at all. It is true to a certain extent – but exercising excessively can cripple your subsequent workouts due to extreme muscle pain. You may even sustain a serious injury from overtraining. If the recovery period from muscle soreness is severely interfering with your workout schedule, it’s a good sign that you are overdoing it.
What you can do, is to progressively overload your body. The gradual stimulus will improve your strength and endurance, resulting in enhanced fitness over time. When your body adapts to your current workout, you must place a greater demand on it. Challenge yourself by increasing the intensity of your training, or perhaps try a different exercise. You will feel a burning in your muscles, and a slight ache during the exertion. Immediately after your workout, the soreness will really kick in. This should lessen over the course of 2 to 4 days, and do remember to keep your muscles moving – the movement will loosen you up and reduce the tenderness.
Now let’s talk about the bad aches, the warning sirens for your body. If you experience localized pain, it signals muscular or joint damage. When you exercise, you are supposed to feel a uniform burn in all your active muscles, and not discomfort in just one area. Improperly-performed exercises and bad form may cause these kind of aches. This localized pain may also appear in the form of sudden, stabbing agony – there is no mistaking it, and you should stop your workout immediately. Undiagnosed and untreated pains like these can develop into long-term or permanent injuries. Pre-existing pains, or old injuries may also affect your body. Exertion can aggravate these conditions, leading to flare-ups and new damage. It is recommended to consult your doctor and a fitness trainer before you try any new exercises.
Exercising is meant to enhance your health and fitness, and it is crucial to listen to your body at all times. It is not ‘tough’ to push through intense pain – don’t wear it as a badge of honour, because taking care of yourself comes first. Now that you understand your body better, your workouts will be safer and worry-free.
You can also participate in one of our virtual Pilates sessions where you will get to interact with one of our experienced instructors, who will keep you safe while working out!
Francine Poh, Freelance Writer