Nowadays, it’s rare for me to wake up and not feel at least a little sore somewhere. Exercise has not only become a fun thing for me to do with my friends every day, but a big stress reliever. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t work out.

So when I woke up on Saturday last week, I didn’t think much of my soreness. On Thursday and Friday, I had completed 75 muscle-ups and 32 legless rope climbs–of course I was going to be sore after this! So I told myself, “I’ll just spend more time warming-up today than I normally do.”

After I coached the 9:30 a.m. class in Springville, I was feeling good. So I skipped my warm-up and went straight into sprint intervals on the ski erg (i.e. more pulling). My shoulders and elbows started to go weak toward the end of the workout, but I pushed through.

After I finished the workout, I packed up and sat in my car for 20 minutes. The soreness I had in my biceps turned to weakness. I started massaging out my left bicep with my right hand… but after 10-seconds, my right bicep was hurting from being in a flexed position, so I switched arms and hands. That pattern continued every 10-seconds or so for at least 20 minutes.

At this point, I realized that I probably overdid it. So I took some Tylenol to make the pain go away. Once the medication kicked in, I drove home to watch the Packers/Ravens playoff game.

After the game, we made dinner together as a family and got the kids ready for bed. I couldn’t pick up my 6-month old–it hurt too bad. So I told Karli that I would put the 3-year-old to bed instead.

I came downstairs to do the dishes after I laid Zeke down for bed. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself. “I can hardly bend my arms now.” So I did what every smart person would do and took a step back and did the dishes with straight arms.

Our babysitter came over 30-minutes later so Karli and I could go celebrate Tyre’s birthday (one of our coaches at RxFIT). She wanted to go rock climbing, so I popped a few more painkillers as we were leaving.

The Ibuprofen masked my pain for about 15-minutes before it became overbearing. I sat out almost the entire time. My joints were weak and I started to get shivers along my back.

I couldn’t sleep that night because of the pain. I realized I had a problem when I went to the bathroom and my urine was coca-cola colored.

I knew immediately that this was rhabdo, but I didn’t want to freak Karli out. I knew that the only remedy for rhabdo was hydration, either orally or through an IV. Because I didn’t want to go to the hospital in the middle of the night, I stayed up drinking as much water as I could. Once water became painful to drink, I started mixing in different Mio flavors so I could drink more.

Image taken from here.

What is Rhabdo?

Rhabdo, short for rhabdomyolysis, is a condition when an excess amount of muscle cells are broken down into the bloodstream. The high volume of muscle cells broken down overwhelms your kidney, preventing it from filtering out the bad stuff. This turns your pee dark. And if it persists, will begin to damage your kidney.

Generally speaking, breaking down muscle cells are a good thing; after all, it’s how you get stronger! But with everything in life, too much of one thing can be harmful.

Now, I’ve hesitated writing about this because as soon as you learn about it, you’re probably going to start thinking you have it. Let me be clear by saying exercise-induced rhabdo is extremely rare. Heck, how many signals was my body giving me on Saturday to take it easy?!

Soreness is normal and shouldn’t stop you from working out. But joint pain and weakness is not normal; especially if it gets to the point of self-medicating. Above all, you know you have rhabdo when your pee goes dark.

If I could go back in time, I should’ve skipped the sprint intervals Saturday morning and substituted it for an active recovery day. Maybe a long, slow run. And then I should’ve sat out during the rock climbing.


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