Dr. Michael Li, DACRB
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great holiday! Each January, most of us rush back to the gym determined to burn off some holiday season calories and work toward New Year’s resolutions to get into better shape. Unfortunately, some studies showed more than half of those who join in a gym or fitness club will drop out after 3-6 months. The common reason: injury.
I want to use this article to lay out some strategies that can help you avoid injury and reach your fitness goals any time of year. If you are someone who wants to stay fit for the rest of the year, this article is for you! Here we go.
Overtraining & Injuries
As we are enthusiastically starting our new year training program, sometimes we may do too much, too soon, and those usually lead to early overtraining, and increase one’s risks of injuries. How can you tell if you are over trained? Here are couple things to look for:
- Test your resting heart rate in the morning or before you have breakfast & coffee. Is it higher than usual?
- Did you find yourself still feeling tired after a good night of sleep? This can be an early sign of overtraining.
- Soreness versus pain
- This is one of the most frequently asked questions I encountered and I hope the table below helps differentiate the two:
|Discomfort sensation: the area feels tender to the touch, and you feel a dull, tight achy feeling when you are resting
||Discomfort sensation: sharp pain at rest
|Onset: during exercises or 24-72 hours after exercise
||Onset: during exercise or within 24 hours of activities
|Duration: 1-3 days
||Duration: more than a week
||Location: muscles or joints
|Feels better with: stretching, some light movement
||Feels better with: ice, rest (or no relief from either of those)
|Feels worse with: being static
||Feels worse with: any activities
|Appropriate action: continue the exercises once the soreness subsides or to a point you feel comfortable
||Appropriate action: consult with a medical professional if pain is sharp and/or lasts more than 1-2 weeks
What to do?
Gradual increase in exercise intensity/volume.
- I found most folks injured themselves by doing too much, too soon. You may be away from training for a while, and thought you would just pick up where you left off. I would say to start off easily and ramp up gently. Start with one set of exercises for two weeks and see how your body response to it. Sometimes it takes time for your body to adapt to the new exercises routine, and you may not feel the good (and bad) effect from the exercises until 2-4 weeks later. Increase the difficulty of the exercises once you master the form and the movement.
Pay attention to your body
- “Feel” the work you are doing with your body and watch your form. Quality movements always trump high volume and bad forms.
- Good nutrition: make sure you eat and drink well and put good fuel back in your body after exercise.
- Sleep well: your body grows when you are sleeping. Better sleep = better recovery = better growth!
Planning & ideas:
- Some folks train for a marathon, some exercise to prepare for a squash tournament, some just train to be healthier. No matter what your intention is, set a goal. You will commit to your exercises routine when you have a goal. Write it down. Put it at your computer screen or at your fridge. Ask yourself “why” you train/exercise and stick with it!
Make it practical
- This one follows nicely after you set up your goal(s). Make your training practical to what you want to do. If you are training for a hike that you would do during your next vacation, make sure your training helps you directly with your hike. You will be more compliant with the exercises.
- You maybe training for the marathon, but it does not mean your training only involves running. Our body is a great adapter, both to good and bad stress. By doing cross training, you will train the weak stabilizing muscles you may miss during your regular training, and give the muscles a break. If you are a runner, do some weight training to helps support your joints to take on road.
Have some fun!
- Going to the gym can be a drag sometimes, especially during the days of 12+hours of darkness outside. Make it fun for yourself to go into the gym. Mix up the exercise routine after you build a strong foundation. Grab a workout buddy. Have a friendly pickup basketball game. Have fun with the exercises. Being healthy can be fun too!
- Take advantage of the professionals in your circle and in the SAC. If you are dealing with an injury, get it checked out by me or other health care professional during the Wellness Tuesdays. Don’t know where to start on exercising programming, set up an appointment with a personal trainer.
- The personal training staffs and I have worked together on numerous occasions to help a member reaching their fitness goals. When a member is injured and come to me, I always communicate with his/her trainers to create the best exercise plan for that member. Together, we can check your base fitness to support your desired activities level; identify training errors; correct biomechanical problems; provide an appropriate plan to reach your goals.
I hope this article helps giving you a great start to 2015. Don’t hesitate to email the Seattle Athletic Club’s fitness director Jacob Galloway (email@example.com) or me if you have any questions. Have a great 2015!
Dr. Li has been taking care of the SAC staff and members since 2010. You can find him at the lobby performing injury screen for members every 3rd Tuesday of the month. His practice, Mobility Plus Sports Rehab, is conveniently located about 10 minute walk from the SAC. You can find out more about him and his clinic at mobilityplussportsrehab.com. He can be reached by firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Most SAC members new to exercise may think that their biggest issue to becoming more fit will be getting the motivation to work out more and become more active in general; but in reality a more common problem is the exact opposite… overtraining. Overtraining is when the volume, load, or repetition causes the negative effects (chronic soreness, joint ailments, etc) of exercise to outweigh the positives. This occurs whenever quality of motion is not the priority.
For some reason most gym goers have a set weight, mileage, rep number, or time that they MUST get to achieve their fitness goals. Focusing on such things and disregarding your quality of motion will eventually catch up to you. No matter if it is weight lifting, running, or yoga, too many movements without competent form will have a negative effect on your musculoskeletal system. Executing any movement without biomechanical efficiency will cause one muscle group, or more, to do way more work that it was designed to. If your back is rounded under a barbell back squat your low back will take the brunt of the movement. If you are not landing softly when you run, the bones and muscles in the feet and ankle will pay the price. This will initially cause some soreness from the overworked muscle. Sore muscles are muscles that are dehydrated and unable to lengthen and contract in a flowing manner. Continuing to stress these sore muscles not only promotes improper mechanics but also invites injury. Whatever calorie burn or muscle pump you achieve in that particular workout will be overshadowed by the damage you do to your body.
The brutal irony is that an over trained individual is bound and determined to improve their overall health and they are in fact speeding up the aging process. One of the first images that come to mind when the word “old” is mentioned is a hunched over, stiff and shuffling figure. Unfortunately age isn’t the only contributing factor to this type of appearance. Faulty movements such as poor running and lifting mechanics can “age” the human body past its years. So all the hours spent in the gym in hopes to slow down the hands of time can actually be speeding them up.
The most disconcerting thing about overtraining is an over trained individual is hardly aware of their condition. Here are some clear cut signs that someone is over trained…
1) Chronic Soreness
This is a huge red flag that your posture and movements leave a lot to be desired. “No pain, no gain” holds absolutely no water. Soreness means you lacked the skill and strength to perform your movements competently. Soreness is expected when you switch activities, increase load, or mileage. This shouldn’t be a constant condition.
2) Decrease in Performance
Are your mile times getting slower? Is your bench press going down in weight? The point of training is to increase performance. If you are not progressing in your activity you are just abusing your body. If your performance is lacking continuing to train in the same manner will only worsen the matter.
3) Lack of Energy
Are you plodding through your runs? Do your arms feel like lead when you try and lift your weights? Do you feel wiped out after each workout? If you answered “yes” to any of the above consider yourself over trained.
So before you throw in the towel and quit the gym, take a deep breath and relax. There is hope. Avoiding overtraining is a rather straight forward process. Just follow these three simple rules to recover from and avoid overtraining.
1) GET COACHED
Every mode of exercise deserves respect. There is a reason there are Yoga and Pilates instructors and weight lifting and running coaches. These professionals don’t get credentials for merely participating in their craft for “x” amount of time. They know each movement they teach inside and out. In addition they are capable of transferring that knowledge to a wide variety of clientele. If you aren’t getting the desired effect from your current activities get professional help. A trainer or instructor can make adjustments to technique and programming that can often dig you out of your current training rut.
2) EARN YOUR INTENSITY
Do not just add more weight to your squat just to lift more weight. Add weight only when the current weight you are lifting can be performed with meticulous form. Don’t just add miles to your running route. Only add mileage when you can finish your current distance with some speed and grace. Exercise isn’t about loading up the weight or running farther; it is about mastering your movements and becoming a more efficient moving human being. If the load your lifting compromises your form or if your feel like you are plodding through you current mileage STOP!!! Only advance when you have earned it with skill, poise and power.
3) REST AND RECOVER
The body needs time to recuperate. Though this amount of time will differ from athlete to athlete it is always a must. If you are feeling tired and lethargic take a day or two off. Take that time to foam roll, stretch, get some down time and relax. A fully recovered body can perform at peak levels. Coming back strong in the gym far outweighs plodding through seven days a week of mediocre workouts.
When it comes to our health, most of us would do anything to keep it. Sometimes this creates a drive to do as much as possible all the time, creating an over-trained body feeling chronic soreness, with decreased performance and energy levels. Take a step back and look at your current exercise regime, if you see any or all of these happening try getting a coached, master your form before increasing the load and make sure you give your body ample time to rest and repair itself. If you have any questions please feel free to contact any of the Seattle Athletic Club’s Fitness staff or contact the Fitness Director Jacob Galloway.
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