Feel the Burn

Exercise and the Danger Zone.

We’ve all done it, fallen into the trap of the self diagnosis. A road that leads nowhere but “Put ice on it” or “You’re going to die if you don’t see a Doctor this instant!” — red lines, alarms and exclamation points all included.

It’s hard to know what to take seriously and what to take as a simple good to know warning.

Articles can help inform but often times leave out the details of each particular case and situation often leaving the reader to feel like it could happen to them tomorrow.

Lately a new “ailment” has been making the headlines; rhabdomyolysis (Also referred to as Rhabdo ). The cause - exercise.

A scary thought considering 51.7% of people work out.

Instead of being scared every time you lift a dumbbell, sit on a stationary, or try to HITT it let’s try to understand the facts.

What is rhabdomyolysis:

“Dissolution of Skeletal Muscle.”

Sounds pretty serious? Well it is. When damaged muscle tissue begins to break down rapidly it releases Myoglobin (protein) into the blood stream, this is toxic to your kidneys and can clog its filtration system leading to kidney failure.


There are many reported causes of Rhabdo including, but not limited to traumatic injury (Think accidents, coma, and compression) the use of illegal drugs, even some medications, as well as muscular diseases and disorders, and heatstroke.

Yet the cause of excessive strain or “over-exercising” is what’s been in the headlines lately due to multiple cases highlighted in such recent articles: as Women’sHeath, CNN and TheNYTimes.

Quoting things that would make any fitness inclined person feel more than a little uneasy.

The Truth:

It is considered a rare disorder with fewer than 200,000 cases per year in the US. 26,000 of which would be considered due to exercise and training as seen in athletes and military.

Exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER) happens during extreme physical exertion. The truth is that Rhabdo is more likely to be diagnosed in new to strenuous activity participants.

1) Excessive numbers: doing any particular targeted move at a rep of 100.

2) Excessive pace: too many reps too quickly or doing one activity right after the other.

3) Excessive pace to push ratio: as you would see in spinning and cross fit type workouts.

Symptoms usually include dark, tea or cola colored urine, muscle soreness, weakness, swelling, cramping and stiffness.

What can I do?

Be proactive; drink plenty of fluids before, after and during exercise. Find a trainer that works with you and keep to a regime; stay on a regular schedule with your activity and introduce increased intensity slowly, but most of all listen to your body, don’t just “feel the burn” if something seems like too much don’t just push past or through it.

In the end we are after all our own best judge. And with the rise of boot camp style, parkcore and “xtreme” fades the rising concern of the everyday exerciser is not without its practical application. Listen to your body and trust its signals.

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