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How Should I Feel When Starting a New Program?

When starting physical therapy, a new exercise program, or a new activity, it’s common to wonder what you should feel, where you should feel it, and for how long. Learning how your body is going to react is an important part of the experience, and we want to be clear on what is a normal feeling, what is abnormal, and what we should be aiming for. Let’s go through a few pointers of what to expect when starting new activities.

First off, if you’re starting something new like physical therapy or an exercise program because you’re in pain, then you want to continue monitoring that pain. Pain is our nervous system communicating to our brain. It’s an alarm that tells you “Danger! Danger! This is a threat!”. It doesn’t mean you actually did damage, although that can be the reason you have pain.

Pain is our nervous system warning us to change what we are doing. If we don’t change what we are doing, then we are going to have damage. We will talk more about pain in another post, but for now, keep in mind that pain has a purpose, and we want to utilize that.

When doing any exercises, whether mobilizing, stretching, or strengthening, you should not have pain. You may feel discomfort, but you should be able to differentiate that from pain. Sometimes a certain technique might be uncomfortable, but it is also relieving. This is different from pain, and we want to keep aware of that.

If you feel like you are doing damage, irritating it, or making it worse, then you probably are. Don’t do that! Instead find a way that you can reduce the intensity so you feel a stretch, release, or softening that is tolerable. Stretching can be painful if pulled too much, and pressure can be painful if too heavy. If you reduce the intensity, you can usually find a relieving sensation, although that may still be uncomfortable. If you can’t do the exercise without it being painful, then you are not ready to do that, and you should consult with a professional to determine why it’s painful to do that.

Also, after staring a new program, it’s not a surprise if you feel fatigued or sore afterwards.

If you are feeling fatigued in the area you were working, that is usually a good thing. That means that an area that wasn’t working much before has now been doing more work than normal. The fatigue should be minimal and should reduce within 30 minutes of completion. If the area you were working stays fatigued longer than that, then you did too much, and your muscles weren’t ready to handle that load.

If you are feeling sore afterwards, that can be normal. Soreness doesn’t fully onset for 24-48 hours after exercise, so don’t be surprised to wake up the next day and feel sore. Again, this means that you are using muscles in a way you hadn’t used them before, and this is a good thing. More muscle fibers are being activated, and you can expect a progression of strength and endurance as training continues.

Don’t think that being more fatigued and more sore is better. You can over do it, so please don’t do more than you were prescribed, and in some cases, you may need to do less. You can always build up to do more, but if you move forward too fast, you may actually set yourself back.

Starting a new program always has a learning curve, as you are learning a new skill that you haven’t yet mastered. Listening to your body is an important skill to develop, and understanding the cues your body gives you helps you make better decisions so that you know when to push it, when to back down, and when to take a break. #snowbeastperformance

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