It may sound a bit touchy-feely, but it's true -- to be a successful, healthy athlete, you need to listen to your body.
"Feeling the burn" in your muscles during a tough workout is a perfectly normal sign that you're challenging your body. Sweating and labored breathing can also be quite natural. But throbbing joints or sudden, sharp pains anywhere are signs that you need to stop what you're doing. Failing to heed your body's distress signals can lead to serious injury and setbacks. Also, post-workout pain that doesn't let up after a few days of rest and ice warrants a trip to the doctor [source: Hobson].
Severe swelling or deformity, dislocation of a joint, numbness or bluish color of the skin or nails are signs that you need to head straight to the ER [source: Northwest Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine]. Pain in the chest or left arm, tightness or a crushing feeling in your chest, or unexplained sweating, such as breaking out in a cold sweat after your workout can be indicators of a heart attack. In that case, call 9-1-1 [source: American Heart Association].
Read on to learn when to take your workouts up a notch.