In my opinion, OPTIMUM health is actually more like a 3-legged stool than anything else (you can shorten one leg of a stool pretty significantly and still sit on it but remove one leg completely and you’ll tip over, right?!) The 3 legs of the stool are:
- high quality exercise,
- high quality nutrition,
- and adequate rest/stress management techniques
But even if you don’t buy the “3-legged stool” metaphor, we pretty much all know and agree that exercise is a really important component of heath. Finding a way to fit regular exercise into a hectic life is the problem…most people who DON’T exercise cite not being able to find the time while for many people who DO exercise it becomes, at best, occasional. In a 2013 study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that nearly 80% of US adults don’t get the recommended amount of exercise each week (The World Health Organization recommends adults ages 18-64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week. Frankly as a Master Personal Trainer and a woman, I think even that goal is short-sighted…the WHO makes no mention whatsoever of Strength & Conditioning exercise but that’s a whole other blog!)
And even folks who do find time to exercise will find themselves sidelined if they don’t take certain preventive measures to prevent exercise-related injury. But if you’re truly committed to getting stronger and healthier, try these 4 injury-preventing strategies on for size:
- Recognize your limitations. Once you have established a regular exercise routine and your body has grown accustomed to daily exercise, it can be tempting to overdo it or even unknowingly push your body to points that put you at a greater risk of injury. And if you’ve taken a break from exercise for any reason (especially injury!) don’t just jump right back in where you were before…take your time and don’t be ashamed to revert back to a less challenging version of an exercise for a few days. Recognizing your limitations is an essential part of avoiding injury.
- Warm up before each session. No matter how accustomed your body is to regular exercise, warming up before each workout is still necessary to avoid injury. Warming up before each workout elevates your heart rate and increases circulation, loosens the joints, and increases blood flow to the muscles you’re about to exercise. I recommend self-myofascial release on a foam roller for 5-7 minutes (like a massage without fingers!) followed by a DYNAMIC warm-up (as opposed to static stretching which has been shown to INCREASE risk for injury!) At the very least make sure to perform 5-10 minutes of lowintensity cardiovascular exercise (ANY warm-up is better than none!)
- Switch your routines every so often. When you stick with an exercise routine for too long you’ll invariably hit a plateau. Conversely, overtaxed muscles forced to endure the same exercises day in and day out are also more likely to sustain “overuse injuries.” Switching up routines every so often combats both those problems.
- GET ADEQUATE REST…I can’t stress this enough!!! Most people forget that in order to grow a muscle you first need to stress it out and then rest…the muscle actually grows WHILE AT REST! Of course exercise feels good both physically and mentally, so it’s no surprise that people who exercise regularly often become somewhat addicted to it, The term “runner’s high” doesn’t just apply to runners because exercise triggers a release of hormones called endorphins which cause the same positive feelings we experience when falling in love, eating chocolate, or taking cocaine. Conversely, sleep deprivation triggers a rise in the hormone cortisol which signals the body to store fat…exercising when you’re overtired is basically working at cross purposes.