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Four Warning Signs When You're Working Out

Workout Warning Signs
Four warning signs working out.

A good workout can cause sweating, shortness of breath, fatigue and muscle soreness. Those are all typical reactions and as long as they're not extreme, they are generally the result of a normal session. The difficulty is often with someone new to exercise, figuring out when they've crossed the line from helpful to harmful. Here are four things you should watch out for.

Anything sudden, sharp, popping, stabbing or a pain on just one side of the body is a problem. It's not uncommon to feel general muscle pain during or after a workout, but when the pain is highly localized and sharp, that means there could be something wrong. You might be experiencing impingement of a tendon, bone on bone contact or a tear of the meniscus in the knee. If the pain radiates or shoots out to your extremities, that can also indicate a problem.

Stop what you're doing and evaluate your actions. Make sure you're not trying to lift too much weight. Check that your form is correct. Test your movement patterns without any weights or resistance and make sure everything is pain-free through your entire range of motion.

If the pain happens just once, quickly dissipates and you're doing everything right, it's probably nothing to worry about. But if it happens repeatedly or is persistent, check with your doctor and find out what's going on.

Swelling is generally a more serious issue. The most common cause of swelling in a workout environment is from trauma, such as dislocation or by running into or dropping something on yourself. Your body is reacting to the trauma, sending blood and other substances to try and deal with the problem. As those fluids build-up, swelling is the result.

Generally, you shouldn't massage the swollen area or attempt to "walk it off." Take pressure off the area that's injured. If there's pain or the swelling continues, go see a doctor and make sure they rule out things that are especially dangerous like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Protect the injured area and wait until the swelling subsides before you go back to your routine.

Shaking a little as you move through a workout is normal. If you can complete each exercise while maintaining proper form, it's probably going to be all right. If the shaking increases to a point where you start having a hard time controlling your movements, then it's time to stop. It's too risky to continue if you've got bad form.

Take a break, let your muscles recoup and make sure you're drinking enough fluids. It's possible the shaking is from dehydration or low blood sugar. If after a rest you're still having problems, consider the workout over for the day. Make a plan when you return to get enough food, fluids and rest before your next workout.

Lightheadedness is when you feel like you're going to faint and is the most common form of dizziness people experience when working out. It's also called syncope, and usually occurs when you stand up too quickly. Lightheadedness is typically caused when something restricts blood flow to the brain. This can happen in the heat, when you're excited, if you're hyperventilating, drinking alcohol or taking medications like antidepressants. Athletes may experience lightheadedness because of their slow heart rates. In rare cases, it can be caused by stroke or heart disease.

When you warm up especially vigorously, take some time before you start weight training. If you warm up for 10 minutes, cool back down for 3 to 5 minutes while stretching. Don't jump right into your weight-training workout.

Standing for long periods can cause blood to pool in your legs and not circulate back to the brain. This can also happen during heavy exertion or when you rapidly change posture. You also shouldn't bounce up immediately after an exercise. Stand up or change positions slowly. If walking around doesn't relieve the dizziness, sit or lie down.

You may need to take your workouts slower until your body grows stronger. Any of these symptoms are your body's way to tell you to be more careful. Don't rush things. Getting fit is a lifetime goal, not a short-term affair.

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