snippy: Lego me holding book (Default)
snippy ([personal profile] snippy) wrote in [community profile] lifting_heavy_things2016-07-12 03:17 pm

Workout pain and recovery

I posted this on my personal DW and [personal profile] azurelunatic suggested I post here.

I have started weightlifting.

Years of medical issues, surgeries, surgical recovery have left my upper body less strong than I want to be. I have a goal: I want to be able to lift a suitcase into the overhead bin when I fly. I put a number on that goal: 50 lbs.

I started on June 31. I am doing deadlifts. That's all. I started with a barbell with no weights on it, but the bar weighs 37 pounds (it's the lightest bar in the gym). THAT IS A LOT. I did 2 sets of 8 repetitions with good form, 3 times a week for the last two weeks. AND I HAVE BEEN IN NEAR-CONSTANT PAIN THE WHOLE TIME. My upper back and chest are aching, stabbing messes. The pain makes me cranky and short-tempered, and interferes with my sleep.

So I read a bunch online and decided to step down the weight. Last workout (Sunday) I used two 8-pound dumbells. That's 16 pounds. That's 21 pounds less than I was lifting the last 10 days. I did 2 sets of 8 reps with good form. I am still in pain, but it isn't keeping me awake. It makes me cranky, but much less so. I'm supposed to work out tonight, but it's been 48 hours and I am still sore.

I'm considering only working out twice a week instead of three times, with more time between workouts to heal. I will probably give up weightlifting if I'm in this much pain all the time. IT IS NOT WORTH IT.

Any suggestions?
rachelmanija: (SCC: Strong)

[personal profile] rachelmanija 2016-07-12 11:55 pm (UTC)(link)
1. Can you get and afford a prescription for physical therapy? This really sounds like your strength-building should be overseen by a medical professional. And your issue and goal is exactly the sort of thing physical therapists specialize in. Even a few sessions might be enough to teach you what you can safely do by yourself.

2. You may have strained or injured yourself by doing too much too quickly, in which case the pain is caused by continuing to aggravate whatever you strained. Alternately or additionally, you might be doing specific exercises which are aggravating your pre-existing conditions. If either or both of those is the case, it doesn't mean you can't lift, it means you just need to lift differently. In your circumstances you probably need a medical professional to teach you how to lift safely, because what that will be depends on your specific body. Again, see suggestion # 1.
rydra_wong: Text: "Your body is a battleground" over photo of 19th-C strongwoman. (body -- battleground)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2016-07-13 07:22 am (UTC)(link)
If either or both of those is the case, it doesn't mean you can't lift, it means you just need to lift differently.

THIS THIS THIS. This is the money quote.

The pain isn't just "what weightlifting is like" or anything, it's not normal and you don't have to put up with it. You do have to figure out (ideally with the help of a professional of some kind, if you can access that) what's causing it, and change what you're doing so you can build up your lifting without pain.

But you absolutely will be able to lift, and "suitcase into the overhead bin" is an admirable and excellent goal to start with.
abyssinia: Sam Carter's first view of Earth from space and the words "all my dreams" (Default)

[personal profile] abyssinia 2016-07-13 04:17 am (UTC)(link)
I second the above commenter. It's normal to be sore from lifting weights, and I'm usually extra sore if I haven't exercised in a while, but the amount of pain you are describing sounds worrying - even allowing for delayed onset muscle soreness. A few thoughts (I am not a doctor or a trained exercise specialist, I just lift a lot and read a lot about it)

1) Did you do any warm-up or cool down exercises? Any stretching/mobility work? Those work well along with lifting to ensure your muscles are warmed up and loosened - both to help prevent injury and to lessen soreness afterwards.

2) You said good form - did you have someone checking you (I don't know your lifting background)? I've been lifting for a long time, and I still have coaches or other lifters check my form and find I still need to tweak it - it can be really hard to see if your form is good, assuming you even have a mirror.

3) If you can get even a few sessions with physical therapy, it could be really helpful to get pointers on how to build into this slowly and learn what you can do safely.

4) Deadlifts mainly work the strongest muscles in your body - the glutes/posterior chain - which is why it's the strongest lift for a lot of lifters, but you can only activate those muscles if your arms/shoulders/back are strong enough to hold that weight. It sounds like you might need to choose some exercises that can (carefully, slowly) work your upper body to build up strength and stability in your shoulder, back, etc. Things like farmers carries, rows, maybe a press, etc could help (or knee pushups, or just hanging from a pull-up bar - of even maybe swimming or a rowing machine) but I would approach anything carefully and with professional advice.

5) I'm coming back to lifting after over a year off, and I'm having to remember that I can't lift as much as I could when I stopped, and go into it easily and carefully so I don't hurt myself. It can suck to go light and easy, especially if people around you are throwing around heavier barbells. But I keep reminding myself to leave the ego at the door and if I work slow and steady and don't get hurt, it'll improve. It takes time and patience to build.

Good luck! It definitely isn't worth being in pain and your body is going to take time to adjust to any new exercise. Hopefully you can find a way to build strength that works with your body.
Edited 2016-07-13 04:18 (UTC)
rachelmanija: (SCC: Strong)

[personal profile] rachelmanija 2016-07-13 05:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Too bad about the PT. I agree that a personal trainer would be the next best bet. (If they dismiss your medical issues or say stuff like "work through the pain," they are not right for you.)

1. Definitely agree on warmups and stretches, though, again, not everything is for everybody. Start slow and gentle, and if something hurts, stop. Ice and massage are also good, if they help you. Also, more rest between sessions, fewer reps, less weight, and start with one exercise at a time. (That way you can narrow in on whether there's a specific movement that you just shouldn't be doing.) If that one is OK, then add another.

Do your workout partner and the gym manager know about your medical issues and this weird pain? If not and you're comfortable, I would tell them. They might have some ideas/knowledge.

And yeah, like everyone's been saying, this does not sound like normal muscle soreness. It sounds like you can tell that this is "bad" pain, because you're posting about it and saying you don't want to lift if this is how it makes you feel. You've had surgeries and done PT, so you've experienced both "bad" (injury) and "good" (muscle soreness from a workout that builds strength - you almost certainly experienced this in PT at times) and if you try to remember what both felt like and link it to how you feel during and after workouts, you should gain a sense of what sort of pain is and is not OK.

In general, good, muscle-building pain can be fairly intense when you begin a new sport, but it tends to be sore/achy/stiff, not sharp. You may wake up feeling very sore, but the pain should not wake you up from sleep or make sleep difficult.

It also tends to come with a psychological component of not making you want to quit because the pain is so bad. People quit sports because they don't like the sport or for other reasons, not because the initial post-training pain is too intense. If you're thinking of quitting because of that, something's wrong.

I agree with everyone's suggestions. I would back off entirely - just rest and maybe eat extra protein, if that's good for you, or walk or do some aerobic activity if you have one that doesn't bother you - until NOTHING hurts that didn't hurt before you started lifting. Then re-start from scratch. If you start getting bad pain, back off.

It's OK to start with 1 pound weights! It's OK to start with half a pound! Your goal sounds very reachable and realistic, but hurting yourself will stop or slow your progress, not improve it.

My only other suggestion is that if your goal is to lit something into an overhead bin, you might try making your exercises as realistic as possible. That is, rather than doing a bench press, keep some weights at home and store them in a cupboard the height of an overhead bin, and practice lifting them in and out. I would start with weights much lighter than you think you need, then very gradually progress.

You could even get an empty suitcase and see if you can lift that overhead into a cupboard without pain. If so, start by spending a while lifting the empty suitcase. Then pack it with crumpled paper and a one-pound weight, and practice lifting that. Etc. In my opinion, if there's something specific you want to do, you need to practice that actual thing, not just working the muscles associated with it in a different way.
rydra_wong: Text: "Your body is a battleground" over photo of 19th-C strongwoman. (body -- battleground)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2016-07-13 07:12 am (UTC)(link)
I'm supposed to work out tonight, but it's been 48 hours and I am still sore.

Definitely don't work out, then. Your body clearly still needs time to recover.

The sort of stabbing pain you're describing doesn't sound like delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is usually more of a dull ache and stiffness, but you can get hammered by DOMS if you're doing any exercise which is new/unfamiliar to your body, and it doesn't mean your body will always react like that.

But you have to allow it time to recover, and only lift again when it's feeling back to normal or near-normal. Then the recovery time will increase rapidly as your body adjusts, the DOMS will go away and be replaced by more ordinary tiredness/soreness, and you can build up the frequency and intensity over time.

The first time I went climbing, I was severely achy and moving awkwardly for a fortnight. Then I went back and was able to climb once a week, then built up over time to twice, then three times a week. But I had to build up.

Of course, that's only relevant if this is DOMS, though it's a good general guideline. "Stabbing pain keeping you awake" doesn't sound normal for DOMS. Were any of your surgeries in the areas where the pain is?

Basically, what everyone else said. This kind of pain from lifting is absolutely not normal, and you shouldn't have to to put up with it.
rydra_wong: Text: "Your body is a battleground" over photo of 19th-C strongwoman. (body -- battleground)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2016-07-13 03:59 pm (UTC)(link)
When I read your words about more recovery time, that rang a bell, that felt right to me. I need to allow myself to heal between workouts instead of just following the instructions on websites and youtube videos.

Yes, listen to your body and wait until you feel fully recovered (or almost fully recovered -- a bit tired and stiff is okay sometimes) before you lift again. And you'll almost certainly find that you recover faster and faster, and can build up to lifting multiple times a week; it'll just take time to get to that point.

Also, useful knowledge to have: lifting once a week can be enough to get strength improvements.

I think the stabbing may be failure to stretch-when I turn my head, the muscles are too tight, and so it stabs.

Yeah, tight neck and shoulder muscles can cause all sorts of crap, and it's really easy for that to build up, especially if you spend lots of time on a computer.

I'm a rock-climber -- which tends to pull shoulders into a hunched position -- and spend most of my life on the computer and tend to "carry tension" in my neck/shoulders, and as a result I have to fight a constant war to open/stretch my shoulders enough to avoid problems.

Ooh, question -- do you have a foam roller, or tennis balls, or other self-massage tools? If you haven't tried them yet, there are a lot of DIY tools that can make a huge difference, and I will babble about them at the drop of a hat.
rydra_wong: Text: "Your body is a battleground" over photo of 19th-C strongwoman. (body -- battleground)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2016-07-13 05:03 pm (UTC)(link)
I can definitely drop down to once a week?

You can drop down to once a fortnight if that's what your body needs to recover and adjust initially! But as soon as you can make it to once a week, you should be able to start getting strength improvements just from that, especially as a beginner. Research studies have been done showing this!

Then as you build up, you'll probably find a "sweet spot" where you get the best balance of intensity and recovery; that might turn out to be two or three times a week, but the important thing is to experiment and see what works for you.

ETA: There's strength training stuff that I only do once a week and I get results from that.

But I also have the biggest DIY tool available: my younger son, who still lives with me, is a licensed massage therapist.


He might also be able to identify if there are any particular "trigger points" in your neck/shoulders/chest that are contributing to the pain.
Edited 2016-07-13 17:04 (UTC)