It’s the Holiday season, and the New Year approaches. For many, this represents a time to reflect on the past year and a chance to resolve to make changes in their life. Research has shown that making resolutions is a useful way to achieve goals. However, only a small amount of people who make a New Year’s resolution keep it for longer than six months.
One of the most common resolutions is getting into shape. As a chiropractor and trainer, this means the New Year is a busy time of year. With people starting new exercise regimes, there are always a slew of new injuries as a result. Lower back and shoulder injuries are top of the list for those starting a strength-training program. Novice runners commonly come to me with knee and lower limb complaints. Often getting injured is just enough of a detour to throw people off their goal completely – but it doesn’t have to be the case. Here are some tips to keep you healthy and active for the long term.
The biggest mistake made when starting a new exercise program is too much, too fast. This is a sure-fire way to injure yourself. The body needs time to adapt from time away from the sofa. Whether you’re running or strength training, the body must get used to the new load in a gradual manner. Instead of starting off trying to exercise every day, start with three times per week and add a workout every two weeks.
The old saying, “no pain, no gain” doesn’t always pay off in the long term. I try to teach my clients about “hurt vs. harm”. Sometimes exercise causes discomfort, but it’s important to distinguish between this feeling and the feeling of pain. The “burn” felt with exercise may hurt, but shouldn’t inhibit your ability to perform exercise. Pain is your body’s response to a harmful stimulus. Pain will inhibit muscle and joint function in an attempt to protect the body. If you are in pain, stop and seek the advice of a health professional. Rest sometimes is enough. However, functional weakness and improper movement patterns can result in injury, so be sure to use caution before you proceed exercising again.
For runners, try to take fast, short strides to strengthen the hips. There is a growing amount of research on biomechanics that links short, fast strides to decreased force through the knees and hips. Time for 60 seconds and count how many times your right foot hits the ground. It should be 90 or more. Further, many running-related injuries such as ITB Syndrome and Patellar Femoral Syndrome are related to a lack of hip strength and stability. Multi-directional lunges are a great exercise to combat this problem.
I take a functional approach to treatment and therapy by assessing movement patterns. As part of building a foundation, the squat and deadlift, or hip-hinge pattern, are essential movements. Most healthy individuals should strive to be able to squat past 90 degrees of knee flexion with out-compensating by flexing in the lower back. The hip hinge or deadlift pattern involves maintain a neutral spine (slight arch in the lower spine) while pivoting at the hips. These two movement patterns involve creating stability in the lower back and promoting mobility through the hips. For those of us that spend 6-8 hours at a desk, hip mobility should be a major focus. The buzz for a long time has been core stability. However, if you lack mobility in the hips, you’ll be forced to compensate (bend) in the lower back when the hip moves into flexion (bringing the knee to the chest). Hip flexion is necessary for movements such as running and squatting as well as sitting. It’s the culmination of this repetitive compensation through the lower back that can lead to injury. Last, if you don’t know get help. You can save a lot of time and suffering if you get started off on the right foot. The number one reason I get for people not wanting to work with a trainer is because they feel they won’t benefit because they are in horrible shape because they have never exercised before. They say they want to try it out on their own for a while. You need to think about investing in your health for the long term, the same as you would for retirement. Would you start investing in the stock market if you didn’t know what you were doing? Of course not, you would seek the advice of a financial planner. The same attitude should be taken about your health it can save you time and money spent on medical bills.