It may have taken awhile, but when you hit your stride and find a workout regime that works for you – well, it feels like the world is your oyster. Where you might once have protested at the loss of time in the pub or sitting in front of Netflix, you now delight in the extra hours you’re able to put into your physical activity.
You run; you cycle; you do yoga – you do anything you can try, for the experimentation and the potential benefits. You’ve now converted to a way of life that involves the gym, physical activity, and being careful with how you treat your body.
If this was an inspirational montage, then reaching that stage – where working out feels second nature, something you can’t not do – would be the closing scene. That would be the end of the matter, a life transformed, capping off the whole montage with you smiling at the sunset, giving viewers the belief your life is now a one-way upwards trend.
Of course… reality is less fun. There’s no montage; there’s just you, trying to make the best of the opportunities you have, pushing your body to be the best it can be. The montage of your life doesn’t close (or at least, hopefully not for many many years!) and there’s no point where you’re ‘done’ and your goals are achieved.
There’s also no space in the montage for the less pleasant effects that all that exercise can have. It almost feels like we’re breaking a taboo just to talk about them here! It’s the little hidden downsides, the impact of all that training, that could really derail that montage – or in reality, how you feel about your workout regime.
We’re not meant to talk about it, though. It’s the hidden truth, with the emphasis on the word hidden. When you’ve adapted to a physical routine, that’s meant to be the end of the line, the point at which you’re on track and everything in your life is going to be better from hereon out. If you’re going to talk about the impact of all that exercise on your body, it should be in a positive way: the pounds lost, the inches shed, the firmness achieved.
That’s not realistic, though – so let’s break some taboos. Of course, there’s no implication that these physical problems mean you should break your workout habit! That’s beneficial for more reasons that we can count – but it’s also not fair to pretend that some sides of working out aren’t less than fun. And there’s absolutely no reason that you should just tolerate them – so break cover, find a fix, and get that montage back on track.
Getting Irrashional: Sweat Rashes
Might as well dive right on in there with the least pleasant thing to discuss!
Sweat rashes are life’s way of just making everything feel terrible. You’re doing the right thing, you’re working out, and this is how the world congratulates you? It’s not fair.
Sweat rashes can be incredibly uncomfortable and, if left untreated, can easily break the skin open. That’s a real problem, leaving you not only susceptible to infection, but also unable to indulge in your usual workout regime.
How To Fix It…
- Moisturise your body when you shower after working out, ideally with a lotion that’s free from artificial fragrance (most bottles will tout this quality on the label, so keep an eye out).
- Wear workout clothes that are tight to the skin; sometimes the rash is caused by wet clothing rubbing skin to the point of causing a rash.
- Remove sweat with a towel – microfibre works best – in between every exercise.
- There are various sweat-absorbing powders you can buy that help with the above, or use arrowroot powder – a cooking ingredient – for a DIY version.
Breaking Out Of Problems: Acne
Another one for the “this isn’t fair” files: yes, exercise can lead to facial and body acne.
Sweat is, once again, the culprit for why you might find yourself breaking out when you increase your exercise regime. Sweat mingles with the dead skin cells we all have on our body and clogs pores, resulting in acne. And this was an appearance problem you thought you’d left behind in your teenage years, along with the tragic haircuts and monobrow!
How To Fix It…
- Again, those pesky dead skin cells + sweat are going to be your ruin here. So make sure you use an exfoliating face wash every time you shower, to keep your pores clear and less likely to clog.
- If you use a facial moisturiser (which you should – no one wants to look like a leather handbag by the time they’re 50!), make sure it’s oil-free. Again, this will be on the label so it’s easy enough to find.
- If your hair is long, pull it off your face with a head or sweatband when working out. You might feel silly, but it will make a significant difference.
- If you’re getting acne problems all over your body, then switch your shower loofah for something more robust. Find a bristle brush that can be used under water and give yourself a thorough scrub every day.
- Don’t pick or squeeze spots. It’s disgusting and, okay, really satisfying – but if you want to get rid of the problem then it’s a no-no. Don’t forget that squeezing spots can also result in scarring, which sometimes never heals – so don’t take the risk.
Thinning In The Wrong Way: Hair Loss
Hair tends to get abused when it comes to working out. We’ll throw a cap over it, wash it more frequently as we’re showering off sweat, run our hands through it when we’re tired. Our scalp sweats, too – so all of the aforementioned issues with sweat can come into play.
If you’re already losing your hair thanks to the genetic minefield of male pattern baldness, then a vigorous workout regime doesn’t help. There’s a reason most bodybuilders tend to have shaved heads – it’s rarely just for the aesthetic!
If the number one all over isn’t for you, then hanging on to your hair is possible with a few options.
How To Fix It…
- If you feel you must wash your hair every time you shower, then switch to a sulphate-free option which will do less damage when used frequently.
- Don’t use heat on your hair if you’re washing every day – it will just cause breakage and ultimately make the thinning all the more apparent.
- If you’re fighting a battle against genetics, then a hair transplant or similar methods might be the most reliable way of preventing further loss. Just make sure you continue to use the same maintenance steps as above if you do decide to go for it.
- If your hair is long, keep it tied back when working out. Don’t use a hairband with any metal on it to do this; metal snags in the hair and can cause further breakage. Look for bands advertised as being “snag-free” to combat this.
Everything Hurts: Aches, Pains, And Sprains
Whether you’re looking to build muscle or just improve your all-over cardio fitness, there are going to be times when your body doesn’t cooperate. Rather than looking like the delighted fitness god, laughing happily to himself as he summits a mountain, you’ll glance in the mirror and feel awful.
Aches and pains are a part of physical fitness. In fact, they’re a necessity. We build muscle through exercise by literally damaging the muscle with strain. Your body is then forced to repair it, and thanks to nature being awesome, it repairs it to stronger than it was before – that’s how you build strength and muscle mass. Of course, the “damaging” part has the tendency to be painful.
When you’re hurting, it can feel like the last thing you want to do is hit the gym – and before you know it, your entire regime has been derailed. So taking a few steps towards dealing with the aches and pains – plus the occasional injury that we’re all liable to get – can keep you on the fitness track for longer.
- Use supports like kinesiology tape to reinforce strength around certain muscles. This can alleviate pain and better your performance.
- A lot of the pain from exercise comes from inflammation in the body. There are many remedies for this, but using ginger and turmeric in cooking have proven track records of assisting with that. You can make these spices a focus point of your meal, or just sprinkle them on at the last minute for the benefits.
- You could also make so-called “golden milk” or ginger tea (usually just done with teabags you can buy at most supermarkets – so not so complex) to boost the impact.
- Always stretch after exercising, but not excessively.
- Warm, hot baths are a staple recommendation for these issues for a reason. Make the most of their impact by adding magnesium salts. Epsom salts are the standard here and are effective, but you’ll get even better results with magnesium chloride options – so check the packaging.