Avoid injuries altogether by recognizing the warning flares, no matter how faint they might be. First, acknowledge that you're dealing with some ongoing pain, no matter how minor you think it is. Then back off from your exercise routine for long enough that you can care for the achy part of your body with targeted mobility work.
According to Dr. Andrews, most instances of soreness are caused by restriction of the fascia, or the connective tissue that interconnects our mucles and joints, which leads to aches, pains, and limited range of motion. His solution: Use a foam roller to break up the fascia then follow up with stretching.
After resting and stretching the ailing body part, it's time to do some strengthening. But this time it's not about PR-ing a lift. Dr. Andrews recommends focusing on strengthening "the muscles that are weak... not the ones that are already strong." He also points out that this might be a good time to seek out a physical therapist, or someone trained in movement science, to assist in the recovery process.
3. Disordered Sleep
While some of us wear our late-night-early-morning routines like badges of honor, lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can wreak havoc on the body, productivity, fitness routines, and overall sense of well-being . And poor sleep isn't an isolated event. Sleepiness compounds to create energy crashes during the day, increases stress hormones, and promotes poor eating habits.
As the energy roller coaster dips, we often turn to caffeine, sugar, and energy drinks to combat fatigue. These quick fixes further complicate the energy crisis. It's only a matter of time until illness, depression, or chronic fatigue set in, but it's not until the daily energy crash turns into an all out well-being train wreck that we begin to take notice.
What to listen for: Everyone has a bum night of sleep every now and again, but paying attention to how frequently you suffer insomnia or fitful, interrupted sleep is important. If you notice unusual hunger, increasingly frequent bad moods, problems concentrating, trouble staying awake and alert despite pounding caffeine and energy drinks, and even poor motor function, you might be suffering from a sleep problem that requires intervention.
Instead of trying to self-medicate with sugar and caffeine, try setting a grown-up bedtime routine. Sleep debt must be repaid on the road to restoring energy levels. Adding an hour or two a night over the course of a month will help restore natural sleep patterns.
Once you feel a bit more well-rested, turn your attention to fuel that provides lasting energy: Nutritious foods (protein instead of sugar, for example), plenty of water, and snacks when you need them . Put some limits around your coffee consumption, like having it only early in the day and perhaps in limited amounts.
More From Greatist: The Surprising Science Behind Sleep and Exercise
Considering how busy most of us are with school, work, relationships, family, working out, and the countless tiny things we make time for each day, it's not surprising that we sometimes lose perspective on how we're physically getting through it all.
Sometimes, the opportunity to rest, eat healthfully, or ditch the energy drink in favor of going to sleep a little earlier slips right past us. But resolving to pay extra close attention to our bodies' "check engine" lights could be the difference between taking a few days off to tend to an ache or a cold and losing weeks or months to an injury or sickness you just can't kick.