This is the fourth blog in this online fitness coaching series about common obstacles to regular exercise and healthy nutrition.
Obstacle #4 “I find myself in this negative spiral: I get a minor injury and stop exercising to save myself for my physical job. Then I get reinjured while working and coming back to workouts before I’m healed. This leads to an even longer rehab, discouragement, depression and eating for comfort. Weight gain is next followed by more discouragement, more eating and more weight gain. Yikes!”
Here are tips from myself and About.com on dealing with overuse injuries so they don’t turn into the dreaded “negative spiral”.
Before diving into these tips, I should give this important advice. If you have not been exercising regularly, get evaluated by a doctor before starting, to make sure you are healthy enough to exercise. Ok that’s covered!
To prevent injury in the first place….
- Start out slowly! Many chronic injuries happen because people new to exercise or returning to exercise try to do too much too soon. Apply the ten percent rule. Increase your intensity by only 10% at a time. So if you were running two miles a day and wanted to increase the distance, you would only increase by 2/10 of a mile. Run this way for at least a week before you decide to increase distance again. Increase time or weight using the same rule.
- Listen to your body. If you are becoming fatigued to the point where you are not performing the exercise with the correct form, it’s time to stop. If you are experiencing unusual aches or pains during your workout you are probably overdoing it.
- Know the proper technique. Many chronic injuries are caused by poor technique. Watch a “basics” video. Observe yourself doing the exercise in a mirror. Work with a coach, fitness coach or a personal trainer to make sure you are doing exercises with good form.
- Vary your routine. Don’t do the same exercise routine over and over every day. This is an invitation to an overuse injury. A good workout regemin should include strength training, cardio, interval training and flexibility. You should also have one day of rest (you can use a day of recreational fitness) each week.
- Wear the right type of athletic shoe. There are sneakers for every sport imaginable these days that give the right kind of support for the activity you will be doing. Have someone trained to fit your sneakers help you. Replace sneakers when they begin to break down.
If you get injured….
- RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Ice should be applied 20 minutes each hour.
- Don’t come back full strength too soon. You should be pain free, no swelling, have full range of motion (compared to your non-injured part), be able to bear weight without limping or throw with proper form.
- Modify exercises until the injury feels strong enough to go back to the move done normally. I have wrist issues when I do push-ups. When they crop up, the first thing I try are push-up stands. If that doesn’t do the trick, I modify the push-up by going to my knees instead of my toes. When my wrist feels strong enough, I go back to toes. Sometimes I need to modify the number I do on my toes until the wrist gets even stronger.
- Change your workout. For example, if you have a knee injury, you may need to bike or swim instead of run or walk. You can also develop circuit training that won’t involve the injury.
If the injury continues to get worse or does not improve, you should get yourself to the doctor or an athletic trainer.
What chronic injuries have you had to deal with? How did you deal with the “negative spiral”? Your comment may help someone else who is struggling.