Friday 29 October 2010

Working out at full intensity is good for you, my ass.

I did a session with a Personal Trainer on Tuesday. This, while in theory a good idea - get fit, get strong, etc, yay - has turned out to be less than entirely positive. As my workmates can attest, I've since spent most of the subsequent days being unable to walk or function normally due to severe muscle pain. This morning, Saturday, 4 days later, most of the muscle pain is gone, but enough of it has remained to trigger a spasm in my neck and shoulder. I pushed myself during the session, a bit, but I'm pretty sure I could have gone a little harder on certain exercises.


I know all the fitness whatevers everywhere say that for maximum benefit, you should train as hard as you possibly can without making yourself ill at the gym. They also say that you should do it about 3 times a week. Those two aims seems to be ... incompatible, at least with respect to my body and its quirks. I think I'd rather take longer, train with less intensity and train more often than put myself out of commission entirely once a week.

Is there anyone out there that can tell me why I have such a protracted recovery time - even when I'm not pushing myself as hard as I can go? Is it just that I'm that numb to my own body's signals during training? Is there something dietary I can do to make myself recover faster? I already eat a lot of protein as part of my daily diet. Is it just that when I push myself, I don't hold anything back, normally? For me, full intensity is just short of injury. Is it something different for other people? Also, what the hell is wrong with me?

I suppose I need to learn restraint. Not one of my stellar qualities in general, really. I tend to go full out at whatever I do.


  1. I definitely think you need to take it a little easier. I thought the current advice was to train in intervals of pushing really hard for 30 seconds or so and then easing off?

  2. For cardio, yeah, that's true. And yes, you rest between sets while doing weights. But while you're lifting - or sprinting - you're supposed to go all out. That ... doesn't appear to be a good strategy for me, unfortunately.

  3. I've done a fair bit of max intensity training in my taekwondo, and I've found a couple of things which might help.

    Firstly, you can injure yourself doing it. Badly (think weeks, not days, of recovery). If you know you aren't good at listening to your body's signals, do some yoga: find a real yoga school, not just a pop-yoga class. There is nothing better that I've found for learning to listen to your body.

    Secondly, recovery is an active process. The first hour or two is key. No alcohol that night, rehydrate well. You've burned up your calcium reserves, so you need a big glass of milk, some yoghurt, or at least a supplement. Avoid caffeine, because it inhibits calcium absorption. Finally, and I find most importantly for me, ice everything which you think will be sore. I sometimes substitute a cold shower, but either way, I find getting the heat I can feel in my muscles out is crucial. For me, an hour or two with ice packs means the difference between a few days of soreness, and none at all.

    Ongoing, I've found best results by very light stretching of anything that's sore. Careful though: never overwork or stretch hard a sore muscle. You just compound your recovery time with little or no benefit.

    Keep in mind this is just what I've found works for me; I've got no formal education in this, I'm not an expert, etc etc.

  4. Thanks!

    I don't seem to injure myself, as such - I know at what point I'm getting close to that, and stop immediately. I just tend to well and truly exceed my body's easy recovery capacity, it seems.

    I'll have to implement the calcium requirement by means of a supplement, as dairy is right out for me, for the forseeable future. Joys of a casein intolerance.

    Ice will be ... not possible. Cold shower, perhaps. I'm doing this during my workday, pretty much, in the cbd. On the other hand, I work in a (to me) chilly office - I start shivering pretty quick if I don't have a jacket on. I don't think that'll have quite the same effect, however.

    Avoiding caffeine is going to be tricky, I guess. But not too tricky, since I don't usually drink much in the afternoons (when I'll be exercising) anyway.

    ... Come to think of it, this is all stuff I've been doing for my riding (pretty much), which hasn't been hurting, except for my poor tender behind. *facepalm*

    Anyway, thanks heaps for the advice - I'll let you know how it goes :)

  5. Maybe to supplement the cold shower you can stretch frequently in the afternoons to try to work your muscles down. Also, don't be afraid to steal a can of coke from the fridge to ice your neck and shoulders with. :) We have a freezer upstairs, so don't be afraid to bring an ice pack! (I've had to do it for my wrists before.)

  6. Hm, may have to bring in a couple of ice packs to work, then. I keep a few at home for summer esky emergencies.