You’ve heard me say this once or twice before, and you’ll hear me say it again: it’s never too late to start exercising. The human body is a physiological wonder in many ways, including its ability respond to exercise no matter its age.
Making a decision to exercise and maintain a regular fitness routine is the first important decision you can make. The next important decision is the type of workout you select. Whether it’s a Body Electric TV workout—with light resistance and low joint stress, ideal for baby boomers—or long-distance running for that 10k you’ve got your eye on, you need to select a workout that’s appropriate for your long term goals and has a gentle entry point.
Let soreness be your guide
If you’ve been off a workout routine for even a little while, ease your way back into it. Too much, too fast is a recipe for injury. That said, you should expect some level of soreness—called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—within the first two days of your workout. But, it shouldn’t be the kind of soreness that causes you to modify your way of life. If it does, then you’ve obviously overdone your workout. Double-check that you’ve selected the right workout program. If you’re satisfied that you’ve made the right choice, then dial it back for the next workout, and watch your form.
Soreness is the result of microscopic tears to your muscles. Harsh as that sounds, it’s actually an important part of the process of getting stronger. As muscles rest between workouts, your body goes about the work of not just repairing them, but also making them stronger and better prepared for upcoming workouts. (As I said, the body is a physiological wonder.) So, just as you should temper workouts that knock you off your feet with DOMS pain, you should increase the level of workout effort if you’re experiencing no soreness at all.
Tired muscles and injuries both need rest
Always allow time between workouts for your muscles to rest, heal, and get stronger. My rule of thumb is to work a muscle every three days. You should not exercise when you are injured—from a workout, or a trip down the staircase. If your injury is acute, seek professional medical care right away. You have to respect all injuries, using the RICE acronym.
Rest: Try not to use the injured area for forty-eight hours, or until soreness subsides.
Ice: For swelling, apply a cold pack for twenty minutes at a time, four to eight times a day. Do not apply ice directly to exposed skin.
Compression: Use a compression wrap on an injured ankle, knee or wrist to help reduce swelling.
Elevation: Get the injured limb above your heart, as much as you can.
So get up, get moving, and let your body tell you how you’re doing. Chances are, you’ll discover that a little bit of soreness never felt so good.