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Don’t ignore weird exercise symptoms

Linda Melone, CSCS, is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and certified personal trainer based in Orange County, CA. Visit her website at www.LindaMelone.com.

Tune in to symptoms during exercise

You exercise to get in shape and feel good. So when you feel shaky during your Zumba class and your downward dog makes your back snap, crackle and pop worse than breakfast cereal, your body may be giving you a heads-up that you’ve got a health problem.

Woman with knee pain running

What to do about unusual exercise symptoms

In general, chest pain and shortness of breath should always be checked, especially if you have a known heart-related problem. Ditto for any severe muscle or joint pain. Otherwise, here's a rundown of common weird exercise symptoms and ways around them.

Weird symptom: Shakiness

Too much coffee before a workout or an "energizing" dietary supplement can put nerves on edge and cause the shakes – even without the Shake Weight. Or you may simply be suffering from low blood sugar and need food. Muscles need glucose (blood sugar) for energy, so a drop in blood sugar can cause jitteriness.

The solution: Eat before you exercise but avoid sugary foods such as doughnuts (sorry!), which create a rapid rise and fall of blood sugar and can trigger hypoglycemia. Instead, eat a balance of protein and carbs with a little fat. So swap that glazed sugar bomb for whole-grain toast with a smear of peanut butter, yogurt with fruit and oatmeal to put the shakes to rest.

Weird symptom: Nausea

Nothing kills exercise motivation like feeling queasy during a workout. Working out takes blood away from your gastrointestinal tract (stomach, intestines, etc.) and brings it to where it's needed – your muscles. This may cause nausea, as can taking vitamins on an empty stomach. You may also be pregnant or have a touch of the flu.

The solution: If eating before a workout causes nausea, try waiting longer after eating and before exercising. If you're prone to nausea during exercise, wait three to four hours after a meal before working out. If high-intensity workouts trigger symptoms, try starting out with a lower exercise intensity before going all-out. And take vitamins after you've eaten, not before. If nausea is a new symptom that hangs with you, see your doctor to rule out pregnancy or a medical condition.

Weird symptom: Body itches/hives

Itching to get in shape? Increased body temperature during exercise can cause some people to develop hives, otherwise known as exercise-induced urticaria. Non-breathable clothing can trigger itching, as can air temperature changes from warm to cold and vice versa. Scratching releases more histamines and only makes the situation worse -- so don't.

The solution: Shower immediately after your workout to avoid itching caused by toxins sitting on the skin. Your doctor may prescribe antihistamines and topical steroids to keep itchiness at bay.

Weird symptom: Crunchy knees

When squats and lunges make your knees sound as if you're eating a bag of chips, don't fret. It doesn't necessarily mean you're getting old. It can even occur in high school athletes when the knee cap isn't tracking (lining up) correctly. It's not usually a problem unless the noise is accompanied by pain, swelling or the joint locking out.

The solution: Strengthening leg muscles with leg raises may help. And substitute non-impact moves for impact ones. For example, swap the elliptical or bike for running and you may feel relief. Consider talking to a sports doctor or physical therapist for a specific exercise program.

More on staying healthy and injury-free

Exercise injuries: Causes and treatments
5 Reasons you shouldn't work out
Yoga injuries on the rise in women
Hot or cold? Best treatment for exercise injuries
Tips to avoid dance related injuries

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