We all know that exercise is good for you, but when you understand why, it makes getting off the couch and into the gym a lot easier. Here’s an explanation of what happens when you work out, and how it can help you deal with the pains and the gains you’ll run into down the line.
What Happens to Your Body When You First Start Exercising?
The first thing you notice when you start working out is that you’re out of breath and your pulse is high. This is always a bit disconcerting, but it’s perfectly normal. When you first start working out, your body responds by raising your heart rate and causing you to breathe heavy.
While those first few weeks are tough, exercise gets a lot easier as you go along, and it’s because your body starts adapting to your workout.
Those muscle changes are important, and it’s not exactly as simple as you might think. Depending on the type of exercise you’re doing your muscles can change in different ways:
For example, in your legs you have two different kinds of muscle: you have fast twitch muscles and slow twitch muscles. The slow twitch muscle has muscle fibers that are better suited for long-duration endurance exercise. The fast twitch fibers are better for short, high-intensity bursts. For example, a distance runner would have a lot of slow twitch muscle fibers. Whereas a sprinter would have more fast twitch muscle fibers.
Let’s say we all start at the same baseline where we have half slow twitch muscle fibers and half fast twitch muscle fibers. When you start an exercise program that’s about endurance, like jogging, your muscle changes so it has more slow twitch muscles and less fast twitch muscles. This means your muscle can generate force for a longer period of time without fatiguing.
It’s not the old adage of “no pain, no gain,” though. You need to be careful when you’re first starting because an injury will likely cause you to break your habit. Thankfully, we know what you should expect to feel when you first start:
So you’re sore, and you’re weak. That’s because the muscle damage causes inflammation and pain. That’s a critical part of the muscle adapting and getting stronger. That soreness usually lasts for 24-48 hours. It’s called delayed onset muscle soreness. People should feel it, but it shouldn’t make them never go back.
Minor to moderate pain or soreness is considered normal. Severe pain, however, is considered abnormal, and may be caused by overexertion or poor breathing techniques.
So what can you do with this information? Depending on your goals, certain workouts are better than others. Since your muscles and body react differently to different workouts, it’s important to come up with your goal first, and then chose the workout.
If all you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, your best bet is to work out all your muscles in a few different ways. For most people, the usual recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate intensity workouts a day—including walking, jogging, swimming, or biking—is a good starting point for most people.
The good news is, the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community center has a large variety of programs to help you stay in shape. Now that you have learned how to deal with muscle pain, the type of exercise that is best for you and how much you need to be careful with your body, we invite you join us to any of our fitness programs. We have the swimming pool available, the fitness center, a turf running track and more. Click here to see all of our programs.
We sure hope to see you stay in great health!