Those of you who love going hard and exhausting yourself after every workout be warned: your high-intensity exercise might not be as good for you as you think it is. With the current health crazes that include High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and classes that exhaust you completely physically (and mentally), doctors have noticed some interesting trends in those who you would assume are the healthiest. There were a number of reports in 2016 that said high-intensity workouts such as CrossFit and spin classes could put participants at risk for heart conditions and even some types of cancer. Now, doctors are saying you could be at risk for another serious illness if your intense workout is a little too intense.
The word ‘rhabdomyolysis’ may look like what happens when you give a toddler a keyboard, but it’s actually a serious syndrome you may be at risk for if you often push your body to its limits.
You feel pain after you workout sometimes because, in the process, you are literally creating tears in your muscles which will heal stronger. That’s how you build muscle and it’s completely normal. Rhabdomyolysis happens when you take that breakdown too far and the muscle can no longer repair itself. If you exercise so intensely that your muscle fibres actually die and the cells break away from your muscle, you could be in some serious danger.
Those dead cells have nowhere to go other than into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the tissue ends up in the kidneys, which are there to clean your blood, but aren’t equipped for that kind of work. That can lead to complications such as kidney failure — which means they aren’t doing their job of cleaning up your body and creating urine. Not good.
After a particularly intense workout it might be difficult to tell if you’re experiencing normal post-workout pain or rhabdomyolysis pain. If you seem to hurt more than usual or your muscles are swollen in addition to being sore, you might be experiencing rhabdomyolysis. If you have those symptoms and your urine is red or brown in colour, get yourself to the hospital right away (but you should probably always seek medical attention if your urine is a weird colour).
Recovery is fairly simple if you recognize the symptoms and get help right away. The treatment is generally just hydration and rest. Once you experience rhabdomyolysis once, however, you’re more susceptible to reaching that point again. So probably best to try to avoid it altogether.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t do high-intensity workouts at all. There’s actually a lot of research that has found these workouts to be effective and good for you. The problem occurs when you push yourself too far or people new to that level of exercise try to do too much too fast. Just be mindful of your body and its limitations. High-intensity workouts can be amazing, but remember, we’re looking to get some exercise, not exhaust the body past recuperation.