Exertional Rhabdomyolysis is one of the risks of which you should be aware with any exercise program. Thankfully, we’ve seen very few cases of this in FitWit land but it has happened, so we want to arm you with some Rhabdo knowledge.
Rhabdomyolysis is caused by stress and overexertion to your muscles. It results from a breakdown of muscle fibers and the release of their contents into the bloodstream. Yikes. Sounds like bad news bears. It can be very serious, but prompt treatment produces very positive outcomes. In the few cases we’ve seen at FitWit over the past several years, everyone recovered in a relatively short period of time.
Research shows that deconditioned individuals returning from extended breaks, who jump back into a workout with too much volume and intensity, are more susceptible to Rhabdo. Someone new to intense exercise is also more susceptible. However, even elite performers and everyday FitWitters can work their muscles past a point of exhaustion and into complete breakdown. So, regardless of your FitWit level or your attendance record, please take a few minutes to educate yourself on Rhabdo so that you can recognize it if you develop symptoms, or even better, can take steps to prevent it from happening to you.
Some risk factors of Rhabdo:
- Recent viral illness
- Taking cholesterol lowering drugs (i.e., statins)
- Alcoholism or alcohol use
- De-conditioned athletes or untrained individuals
- Severe exertion
- Repeated eccentric movements (“negatives”). Exercises such as pull-ups, dips, and plyometircs have a strong eccentric component.
Some Signs and Symptoms:
- Extreme muscle pain and soreness (beyond the normal DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness)
- Swelling, redness, and hardening of the affected muscles
- Difficulty moving the affected muscles
- Weakness in the affected muscles
- Dark urine color (dark, red, or cola colored)
Steps you can take to prevent Rhabdo:
- Hydrate!!! Before, during, AND after your workout (especially in hot and humid weather)
- Listen to your body – if it hurts or just doesn’t feel right, don’t do it
- Stretch the muscles you used in the workout.
- If you are coming back to workouts after a lengthy time off (more than a week), scale the workouts to ease yourself back into the routine. Too much too soon can up your risk of rhabdo considerably.
- Ice any unusual pain or soreness after your workout
- Take rest days – your body needs it!
- Educate yourself – sore muscles or joints are not uncommon at FitWit and generally not cause for concern
- Communicate with your trainers – keep up informed. Let us know if it doesn’t feel right, look right, etc.
- If you experience symptoms of Rhabdo, consult your doctor or go to the hospital immediately
In the end, yes, this is a risk of the intense workouts we do at FitWit. But armed with the right info, exercising is a lot safer than spending the rest of your days on the couch. Train hard, but train smart!