Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Enjoy the exercise without the injury



Earlier this summer, I signed up for a half-marathon training program. My goal was to get back in fierce fighting form over the course of a few months. Sadly, I wound up instead with a wicked case of shin splints and plantar fasciitis. I'm still blue about that one, as I would have run my first half-marathon earlier this month had my body not broken down.
I guess I'm not too surprised, though. I did everything I shouldn't have done when attempting to avoid injury. I didn't always stretch before or after racing. I spent the first few runs in old, worn out shoes. I failed to listen to the aches and pains in my body. So for any other folks diving into a new workout regiment, here are some fantastic tips from www.theskinnyonlowcal.org to help you prevent injury. 

  • Suit up properly for your workout. Wear lightweight clothing that wicks moisture away from your skin when you sweat. Choose shoes that fit well, have firm ankle support and contain gel or pads in the sole to absorb shock. Refrain from wearing racing shoes during workouts. Their light construction may not support your feet well during prolonged and regular workouts. If you don’t know what type of shoes to get, go to your local sporting goods store where they can determine the right shoes for your feet based on the type of exercise you will be doing.
  • Warm up for 10 minutes or longer before exercising. Rather than stretch stiff muscles and tight joints, do light aerobic activity like walking or marching. You pump oxygen through your bloodstream which circulates to your muscles. As you feel warmer, do gentle joint rotations and stretches.
  • Opt for lower-impact exercises that effectively elevate your heart rate. Rather than running on a hard surface, speed-walk on grass or jog through water. Instead of aerobic dance, do belly dancing. Other cardiovascular workouts that reduce shock to your joints and muscles include swimming laps, aqua aerobics, using a stationary rower, climbing stairs, using an elliptical trainer, power yoga and sun salutations.
  • Complement your aerobic workouts with resistance training. Doing calisthenics and workouts such as pushups, pilates, yoga poses, pullups, squats, lunges, plyometrics, functional strength training and triceps dips targets your major muscle groups and builds bone and muscle density, protecting you from injury.
  • Give your body time to recover. When exercising, you strain your body and induce numerous small “damages” to your body. This is actually a good thing – when your body repairs and recovers, it rebuilds the damaged parts to be slightly stronger than before. That’s how your physical condition improves. But don’t overdo it! “No pain, no gain” is not the right mantra when you start exercising.

The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body. Exercising can be – and should be – a lot of fun. Don’t push yourself more than what your body can deliver. If you have aches other than ordinary muscle pain after exercise, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. If you try to “push through the pain” you’ll just damage yourself. Have fun and enjoy yourself!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Row, row, row your boat

Many many moons ago, I was a college rower. I joined on a lark my freshman year, after opting against the walk-on swim team route. After years of competitive sports, I was tired of grueling 6 am practices and figured crew would be a fun, easy way to stay in shape and make some friends. That year, my team won nationals. Needless to say, it wasn't the competitive cakewalk I thought it would be. Two-a-day practices on the water, combined with weight/circuit training and hill running, kept me in the best shape of my life. Seriously, I wish I still had that body. 
After two years, I quit the team - a ruptured back disc providing the incentive I needed to give up on competitive college sports. But I'll never forget how much those workouts kicked my butt. And now it seems the rest of the athletic world is starting to pick up on the benefits of crew-related exercise. I was thrilled to recently see an online discount for a fitness studio in Atlanta now offering aerobics-based rowing classes. Yes, I went and bought it so I'll let you know if it's worth trying. But I have high hopes! And once I get through that set of classes, I just might have to look into joining a coed crew team!