woman exhausted after workout

7 Things You Can Expect When You Start Working Out for the First Time

The new year is officially underway and heading to the gym is, once again, high on the list of resolutions. However, if you have not worked out in a while or this is your first time ever working out there may be some unexpected side effects – and we are not just talking improved endurance, stronger muscles, or less fat. Maybe one day you can barely sit down without assistance, you are sleeping more restfully, or you cannot seem to find any clean workout gear. 

Here are seven normal things you may notice when you begin to exercise. Knowing what to expect can not only help you stay on track when they pop up, but can keep you from thinking something is wrong or it is not working for you. 

You will likely be sore, very sore

sore after a workout

Growing your muscles requires creating little tears in your muscle fibers, with the rebuilding process making them stronger. Aching and feeling sore can affect you anytime between one and three days later and can last longer than that. 

Soreness not only affects those who have never exercised but also those who are doing workouts their muscles are not used to. This happens because when you are new to working out your nervous system has not become efficient in recruiting different muscles. So, your body does not quite understand how to fire everything well and you do not have as much motor control. However, as you progress with your workouts your body understands how to move more efficiently. Luckily, our nervous system adapts quickly, so consistent soreness should subside within a few weeks. 

Research also shows that even after just one workout of a certain kind your soreness will reduce the second or third time. While there is not an all-encompassing rule to how much you should workout when you first get started, if you are too sore to continue you should probably take a break and add on slowly. The good news is that the more you work out the less sore you will feel. 

If you are in a state of barely being able to move because of intense soreness and achiness, try stretching, light exercise, and using heat or ice to soothe your muscles. Keep in mind, if your pain is sharp or lasts more than a few days, check in with a medical professional.

Your energy levels will increase, eventually

energized after a workout

When you first begin working out it can feel like your sweat sessions are completing depleting your energy, which is very normal because your body is not used to expending so much energy every day. However, once your body adjusts to your new activity level, you should begin to feel more energized after your workouts. 

Bringing it back to middle school science, exercise builds more mitochondria and more capillary density in your muscles. If there is one thing you remember from middle school science it is that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell and they are responsible for helping us produce more energy. 

Research even backs this up. A study published in PLOS One followed 100 college students who reported feeling burned out and fatigued. Half of the participants were told to run three times a week for six weeks; the other group did not change their workout habits. At the end of the study, the running group reported less overall fatigue than the control group. 

You will sleep soundly

woman sleeping well after a workout

Many Americans struggle with getting a good night’s sleep but working out could turn that around. A large study, conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, of 3,081 adults, found that participants between the ages 18-85 who did moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes a week had a 65 percent less chance of feeling overly sleepy during the day. 

Increased sleep quality is also good news for your fitness progress, too, as your body needs quality sleep to release hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone, both of which are involved in muscle repair. 

Even hungrier than usual

hungrier after a workout

After starting a new workout routine you could find yourself feeling absolutely ravenous, but it is not all in your head; you are burning more calories than your body is used to, so it might be looking to refuel. But there is no need to ignore your hunger, just make sure you are reaching for healthy options that will also leave you satiated.  

Your mood is likely to improve

improved mood and less stressed after a workout

Many cite their mood and mental health improving as better than the physical improvements they notice. Exercise not only releases the body’s feel-good chemicals, endorphins, after a workout, but it has also has been shown to reduce daily stress. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Of course, if you are struggling with mental health conditions, reach out to a medical professional, but try adding regular exercise to your routine to alleviate some symptoms and manage your mental health conditions. 

Your skin might act up a little more

acne after working out

A downside to exercising is potential break outs. Sweat from exercise itself does not cause acne, but sweat during or after exercise does create the ideal moist environment for bacteria to breed. Bacteria can also spread to your face by touching your face with a towel that has been on a machine or wiping your face with your hands after touching machines. The free weights are especially covered in bacteria.  

If you have noticed your skin is worse than normal, remove your sweaty workout gear and shower right after you are done with the gym and wash your face right after a workout. Additionally, avoid wearing makeup to the gym, especially foundation, as it mixes with sweat it can increase pore-clogging. 

Know there will be setbacks

discouraged after working out

Starting a new workout program and sticking to the new workout program are entirely different beasts to tackle. Starting is difficult, but committing time day after day and week after week can take a toll. 

While there is no perfect routine, do not throw away your new routine for a missed day or two. We have all been in the situation where we have worked out consistently for a few weeks, but then we cannot make it to the gym one day and then do not step foot through those doors until months later. 

To ensure you will be faithful to your resolutions, build your support network. Sign up for a personal trainer so you cannot miss a session. (P.S. The first workout with a personal trainer is free at Xperience Fitness.)  Join a class where you can get to know the other members and trainers. Or bring a friend to a high-intensity interval (HIIT) session and be in and out of the gym in an hour while still burning a ton of calories. 

Also, set goals, long-term and short-term that have nothing to do with weight; make goals to run a 5K, do an unassisted pull-up, bench your body weight, or do a physical activity with your kids.