I went to the gym for the first time ever in my life on Monday after signing up for two months only, as a trial.  It was for a fitness assessment, so the consultant weighed me, gave me diet tips, etc.  However, after talking in her office, we just jumped into the gym and she put me on a treadmill.  After that we did some squats, Russian twists and lunges.  It was challenging, but I was still motivated and planned on working out 5 times a week.  It was only the next morning I regretted it because I was in pain! I was so sore from that workout, and still am sore today. It literally hurts just moving a muscle.  I should add we did not do any stretching at all.

So, should I return to the gym and work out despite the pain? Also, what stretches should I do and when?

Yes, yes you should return to the gym despite the pain.  What you are experiencing is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) which is when your muscles have actually been slightly damaged in your workout.  Don’t panic, it happens to everyone (you should see Lainey after she’s been travelling for a month and comes in for a workout, she can’t walk for a week) and as bad as it may seem it isn’t serious. You just put your body through a very challenging routine and your muscles did things that they probably have never done and even though you did not stretch, no amount of stretching could have helped you avoid the pain you are now in.  And let me guess, you felt even more sore the second day?

When you have this type of pain, where the pain increases on the second day, here is what you need to do to eliminate the pain as quickly as possible

1 – Even though you hurt you need to go back to the gym the next day.  The workout should be short and light.  What I suggest is an easy 20 minute bike followed by a 10 minute power walk and then some light stretching afterwards.  Because you have damaged your muscles in your workout the day before, the muscles themselves won’t respond to stretching so when you hold a stretch keep the intensity light (a 3 out of 10).

2 – Take an ice bath.  I know, it sounds terrible, but trust me if you take a cold bath you will feel a million times better the next day.  The cold bath will help decrease the inflammation your muscles are experiencing as well as help draw lactic acid out of your sore and tight muscles.  Here is what I do (and I hate cold baths as much as anyone).  I fill my tub up first, only cold water and if I have a bag of ice in the freezer I will add that too.  Next thing is I slide in very slowly, I find the slower I get in and the less ripples I create the less painful it is to get in.  Once I am in I set a timer for 10 minutes and I don’t move as I find if I stay still the water doesn’t feel cold.  If I’m really cold I might even wear something warm on my upper body (a toque, scarf and maybe a sweatshirt) to prevent my upper body from becoming tense.  Sounds terrible, I know, but it works.

3 – It will take about 5 to 7 days until you are completely pain free but keep going to the gym and doing light workouts.  Once the pain is gone then you can start to add strength training back into your routine but take it slow.  Start with 1 set for each muscle group and gradually build onto that.

It sounds like you just might have gone too hard too fast, so slow it down a bit, keep the intensity of your workouts light and progress slowly.  But definitely get yourself back into the gym – don’t allow a little muscle pain to stop you.

Attached - Zooey Deschanel and Hannah Simone in gym clothes on the set of New Girl.