One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is to ignore aches and pains when they are minor. Your body is very good at telling you things; the trick is learning how to distinguish between minor tears that are getting repaired and major tears that could lead to an injury. The easiest thing to remember is to ice early and ice often. When you finish a workout, your muscles have been torn. This signals your body to repair the muscles, and if the tear is bad enough and you have properly fueled yourself it will repair the muscle in such a way that the same workout will not cause as much damage. This is how we get better at any physical activity.
When you do too much too fast, or you twist something in a way that your body doesn’t want it to twist, you risk pulling a muscle or bruising a bone or causing a fracture. There are countless ways that you can hurt yourself. As you get more experienced in working out and you begin running more miles and doing more speed workouts, you have to be mindful of how you feel. In general, you should be able to tell the difference between being sore because of a good workout and being in pain because you have injured yourself. Any time that you are not sure, then ice the sore spots after your workouts.
There are different ways to ice your muscles, and I will get into them later. In general, you want to apply the ice to the sore spot directly after your cool down and stretching. When you are done icing, you will generally want to wait for 20 minutes and then ice again.
Icing your sore muscles will not heal an injury, but it could help to prevent one. When in doubt, apply a little ice. If you are just a little sore, then one round is probably enough. If it gets worse from workout to workout, then you should ice more and even consider taking an extra rest day or two. Icing your muscles can help you keep yourself on your training schedule, but pushing your schedule back a day or three now and again may help prevent you from pushing your schedule back a month or three.