"No Pain no gain" was a very common term used by fitness enthusiasts in the 1980s and early 1990s. Although this term has been abused by Crossfit cultists (sorry guys and gals, injuries are not a badge of honor), there's definitely some truth to it.
Pain is a regular part of training. Whether it be during your exercise or days afterward, pain will always be there. But there are things you can do to reduce it as much as possible.
1. Headaches/Pounding in Head
Cause: Dehydration/Electrolyte Deficiency
When you're dehydrated, your blood volume tends to be lower. Lower blood volume will cause your heart to work harder to circulate blood. In other words, if you're dehydrated and involved in intense exercise, your blood pressure will skyrocket. Leading to headaches, fatigue, and dizziness.
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) and abnormal blood pressure are also possible culprits, but dehydration is the leading cause of this feeling.
What you can do: If you're feeling these symptoms in the gym, you should just call it quits for the day. Go home, hydrate yourself and ensure that you're getting enough electrolytes.
Electrolytes include calcium, potassium, sodium, chloride, and magnesium. It is essential that you are getting adequate amounts of these nutrients if you choose to be physically active so your body can better retain water.
Also keep in mind that the human body can't metabolize more than about a liter of water per hour. So don't go home and drown yourself with a gallon of water. Not only isn't it effective at replenishing your internal water supply, it can kill you by flushing critical electrolyte stores out of your body.
2. Burning Feeling in Muscles While Exercising.
Cause: Lactic Acid Build Up
Muscles get most of their energy from a thing called glycogen. Glycogen is present in every muscle in your body and is made up of long strands of sugar molecules. Glycogen is the primary source of energy for muscles. As you exercise, your glycogen stores are slowly depleted.
Even though your body is constantly replenishing your glycogen stores, eventually maintaining your glycogen is unsustainable. This point of unsustainability is known as your lactic acid threshold. Lactic acid is a sort of backup energy source that your body uses when your muscles run low on glycogen.
Unfortunately, the process of converting lactic acid to lactate can cause a burning feeling in your muscles.
What you can do:
1. Come to the gym hydrated and stay hydrated. Lactic Acid is water soluble and won't have a chance to build up as much if you have enough water in your system.
2. Frequency, frequency, frequency. The easiest way to up your lactic acid threshold is to work out regularly. Don't be intimidated by the pain you feel at first, it WILL get better with consistency. You should devote at least three days per week to exercise in order to get properly conditioned. Once you get over that hurdle, then you'll be in a lot less pain when you exercise.
3. Be efficient with your breathing. Take deep breaths in between sets and be sure to breathe while you're working out. Remember to inhale as you contract your muscles and exhale as you extend your muscles. For example, when you curl, breathe in as you bring the weight up, release the breath on the way down. Oxygen efficiency is key.
4. Stretch and foam roll after an intense workout, it helps to do this beforehand too. Stretching and rolling will help release lactic acid more quickly. This can also be helpful for the third type of pain explained below.
3. Next Day Pain
Cause: Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Have you ever woken up the morning after a tough squat workout, only to find that your legs feel like rubber? This is another symptom of lacking conditioning and is commonly referred to as DOMS.
After a tough workout, your muscles are pretty brittle. They are not only weak and depleted of glycogen, there are a ton of micro tears in your muscle fibers. As time goes on, your muscles continue to break down, this can last an additional day or two.
What you can do:
1. Get conditioned! As I said above, try to devote at least three days per week to exercise. If you can maintain this discipline, DOMS will be a thing of the past, for the most part at least.
2. EAT! That's right, another major contributor to lasting pain is a lack of tools for your body to be able to recover. Lacking complete proteins in your diet will inhibit protein synthesis, which is absolutely essential for repairing torn muscle fibers.
3. Get enough quality sleep. Growth hormone is secreted as you enter REM sleep and is absolutely essential for preventing DOMs and many other things. Oh, and make sure the lights are off. Even the faintest light present can disrupt your sleep cycle. If you sleep with the TV on, you're doing it wrong.
4. The pain is likely a result of whatever exercise you performed being unfamiliar to your body. New motor patterns, even for a conditioned person, can trigger this condition. Just embrace the suck and stay consistent until the pain is no more!
5. Cold therapy is another way to stave off pain from DOMS. Studies have shown that cold therapy after a workout can drastically slow down the further breakdown of muscle tissue. Before you're done with your shower, be sure to get some cold water on you. The benefits of doing this are absolutely amazing and include reducing inflammation associated with exercise.