Know When to Say When

October 01, 2018


Now that the weather is starting to change and the temperature is dropping the tendency to head indoors for exercise will increase. Obviously, working out in a climate-controlled environment can be much more palatable than sub-freezing temperatures with wind and precipitation. Although a nice alternative it is not without its perils.



There are many options for indoor training. These options can range from stationary bike to elliptical, boot camp class to old-fashioned calisthenics. All of these alternatives have benefit depending on what you are hoping to accomplish. The difficulty is in knowing when to stop. For example, if you have spent the Summer and Fall doing things that are more aerobic in nature like running, biking or swimming, your body may not be adapted or ready to take on vigorous strength training.


Unfortunately, that first session of strength training is going to feel wonderful. At least until 24-48 hours later. That is when delayed onset muscle soreness occurs. In general, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) occurs between 24–48 hr after exercise and eventually induces a reduction in muscle function and range of motion with a concomitant increase in creatine kinase (CK) activity, thus causing psychological discomfort1. Anyone who has ever exercised has experienced this. You are working hard, feeling good and have no clue as to the damage you are causing until a day or two later. Then you pay for it and cannot return to the gym for another 2 days until the soreness has abated enough to be able to move again.


The good news is that soreness will eventually subside and the muscle damage, provided it was not too severe, will heal. Perhaps it would be better to avoid this scenario all together. A good rule of thumb is to always leave the gym feeling as if you could have done more. This can be very difficult especially in a group environment such as a boot camp class. If you are undertaking an activity you have not done for a while, ease into it.


Not sure how to “ease into it?” If you are planning to initiate a strength training program start with light weight that you know you can handle easily for 12 to 15 reps. Perform 2 sets per body part and get out of there. After 2 weeks of 2 sets of 12 to 15, increase the weight slightly, increase to 3 sets and drop the reps to 10. After 4 weeks of adapting your body to the workload you can begin to increase the intensity.


If you are thinking of joining a group exercise class, find out what the class entails. If the work required in the class is way beyond your current fitness level consider gradually increasing your workouts until they more closely resemble the class you are thinking about. When you do join the class you also have to check your ego at the door as the group environment automatically makes you work harder than you would otherwise. You have to be disciplined enough to go at your own pace and modify if necessary to avoid overdoing it or injuring yourself. This can be very difficult making it even more necessary that you are able to perform the volume of work that the class entails before “jumping in”.

If, however, you do “jump in” and find yourself sidelined with injury, give us a call and we will help get you get you back to the gym and guide you in your progression to doing so.


  1. Kim J, Lee J. A review of nutritional intervention on delayed onset muscle soreness. Part I. J Exerc Rehabil. 2014;10:349–356.


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