Have a red face for hours after working out? Feel dizzy after exercise? We tapped an expert to give it to us straight
Fitness fanatics put up with problems other people never would: days of brutal soreness following an intense pump class, and intense, gnawing hunger after a long run. But since you’re so used to pushing your body to its limits, it can be tough to tell what’s simply a symptom of a hard workout, and what might need to a doctor's attention. We asked Susan Joy, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, about the seven most common tics and side effects that afflict gym-goers (and which ones to worry about).
This is probably benign, says Joy. “Some people seem to be prone to facial flushing in response to ‘whole body heat stress,’” or the increased internal temp that occurs after exercise. As you get fitter, your may find that you lose the ruddiness faster. But if you start developing rashes or hives during or post-workout, see a dermatologist or allergist. It’s rare but possible to become allergic to exercise, a condition called exercise-induced anaphylaxis.
Taylor Swift, you’re not. But there’s no need to be concerned about the fact that even a “light” gym day leaves you drenched. Some people simply sweat more than others, says Joy. But your body gets better at cooling itself as you work out more, so keep up your fitness routine and you may stop having to wring out your sports bra after each workout. Check your meds too—some, like certain kinds of antidepressants—can contribute to an increase in sweat.
Play it safe and call your doctor, says Joy. Lightheadedness after exercise may just be a sign that you went from 60 to zero too quickly. “After running long distances, it’s important to walk at the finish line and not stop abruptly,” she explains. Coming to an abrupt halt can cause blood to rush to your legs and away from your brain, leading to dizziness or collapse. But the symptom can also be the first sign of concerning problems, like cardiac disease, so don't take it lightly, Joy says. (Check out these Surprising Things that Put Your Heart at Risk.)
If it hurts or you notice swelling in the area, see a doctor stat, as that could indicate a potential problem, asserts Joy. Alone, however, “popping or ‘noisy’ joints aren’t unusual,” she says. Doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes the sounds: bone or tissue rubbing against itself, or pressure changes caused by fluid shifting through the joint as you walk. In most cases though, it’s harmless.
This one might be serious, especially if it’s coupled with muscle aches. “It could be a sign that your body is breaking down muscle because you’re exercising too intensely,” says Joy. This condition, called rhabdomyolysis, can lead to kidney failure and even death. Get to an ER, urgent-care center, or doctor’s office immediately. At best, super-dark urine means you’re dangerously dehydrated, and probably still need medical attention. (Discover 6 Things Your Pee Is Trying To Tell You.)
It’s probably nothing to be worried about. Many people have low blood sugar in the morning (you haven’t eaten all night long!), which can translate into weakness and fatigue. The result: Your workout suffers. Eat a small snack about a half-hour before working out and see how you feel. (Plus, figure out What to Eat Before a Morning Workout.) Or if your schedule allows, exercise later in the day. “Some people feel more comfortable exercising at different times a day, and quite frankly may not get the same vigorous morning workout as they might get later in the day,” notes Joy.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is super-common, generally peaking around 48 to 72 hours post-sweat sesh. This is why you want to stagger hard workouts with easy ones or rest days, and avoid working out the same muscle groups multiple days in a row, explains Joy. (Check out these 6 Ways To Relieve Sore Muscles After Overtraining.)