Exercise Smart to Avoid Injury

I thought I had bowlers elbow from playing X-Box with Samantha, but after a few weeks, I thought  it may be a more serious injury. It can be very frustrating to have to halt your progress due to a strain, but you can definitely hurt yourself and cause pain if you aren’t paying attention to your body.

The idea behind smart exercising is to work out with intensity, but equally as important— avoid doing anything that will hinder the process of getting into shape. When you’re exercising, you will reach a point where your muscles begin to tire, and you feel like you should stop. This is where it gets a little tricky, and you really have to pay attention to what you are doing.

My advice to exercising smarter usually refers to intensity, and I recommend pushing yourself beyond that limit where you start to feel tired. However, it must be something you can realistically do by keeping the same form that you started with.

If you keep trying to do more and more repetitions by whatever means possible, like swinging the weights or using other muscles to “cheat”, you are not doing any of your muscles any good.

Building up muscle takes time, and your muscles are only capable of so much. That is why you exercise them, so that they become stronger. But you still must take care by paying attention. If you push farther than your muscles can go, then you will possibly strain, tear, or otherwise injure your muscles and body. If you hurt yourself while exercising, you may be out of commission for a while and not be able to make progress.

On another note, there is something called delayed onset muscle soreness. It is common after exercise to feel a little tenderness in your muscles. This is completely different from an injury. To read about DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) check out this link to an article I wrote all about it. http://fitchicktricks.com/why-do-muscles-get-sore-after-exercise/

Symptoms of DOMS:

1. The pain is generalized and usually a dull pain or tenderness .

2. It tends to arise symmetrically in the body .

3. It lasts a short time (24-48 hours) then goes away.

Symptoms of an injury:

1. The pain is localized in one area of your body. It can be a sharp pain when the muscle is moved in a certain way.

2. The pain lasts for 3 days or more.

So after a month of thinking that I had injured my bicep, I was not doing any upper body exercises involving my right arm. And it was not getting any better, so I finally went to the doctor, and come to find out, I have tennis elbow. Or in my case it is more accurately described as “mouse” elbow, as I am always on the computer writing about health and fitness.  The rest I was giving my arm was completely the wrong type of rest. But now I know how to work to get rid of my mouse elbow. Luckily it doesn’t include giving up the computer.

Free Weights v.s. Machines

A friend of mine recently asked me what type of workout I do. I change my workouts often, but currently I take a spinning class three times a week, I do a leg work out two times a week, and I split my upper body into two days. But one thing remains consistent no matter what kind of mix and match exercise routine I am doing. I try to stay off of the machines, and here is why:

  1. Machines control your range of motion.
    Sounds like a good thing, right? Not really. Machines often eliminate a lot of work on your part. This is great for beginners, but once you’re past the rookie stage, it is much more effective to be in control of your movement and range of motion.
  2. Many machines put you in a seated position.
    Whenever possible, a standing position is better. Standing while working with weights, pulleys, or bands loads your skeleton (good for bone health), requires you to engage your core muscles, and challenges your balance. It’s like a three for one.
  3. Many machines may isolate only one muscle group.
    Our muscles rarely work in isolation. Although there’s nothing wrong with supplementing a good workout with exercises that isolate a muscle group. But exercises likes squats, lunges, and assisted pull-ups involve several joints which develops more muscle mass (muscle burns calories all day long), improves core strength, and shortens workout time.
Of course there will always be circumstances where a machine will come in handy, and some days you may want the assistance of a machine or look forward to sitting down through parts of your workout, but if you have a choice between a machine and free weights or body weight exercises, try to go with the weights.

Indoor Rowing – Endurance, Flexibility, Cardio, Resistance

Lately, I have been trying to mix up my cardio between the treadmill, elliptical, and spinning. But lately another machine has been calling my name. It’s faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, works all the muscles in a single bound, Look! It’s a rowing machine.

That’s right, that little rowing machine off in the corner of the gym is one of the few super machines that work all the major muscles of the body at once while providing a cardio kick at the same time.

Starboard or Port? No need to memorize any boating terms to get a great rowing workout. Indoor rowing can be an endurance exercise, a flexibility exercise, a cardio exercise, and it invokes all the muscles of the body and trains them evenly. The pulling motion works the arms, shoulders, back, and abdomen. The legs, hips, and torso do the brunt of the work on the slide back, and it does this all with very little pressure on the joints. Because rowing is done with a fluid movement, the sliding motion doesn’t jar elbows or knees like other types of exercise.

You can adjust the rowing machine to create a tighter resistance to tone and build muscles. For that aerobic advantage, keep the tension low to maintain less resistance and higher speed, which improves endurance along with lung, heart and circulation systems. Rowing machines offer the best of all worlds in one exercise.

The power in each stroke or pull controls the flywheel on the rowing machine, and proper technique is key. The rhythm to rowing is Catch, Drive, Finish, Recover.

Be careful when sitting, because all rowers have movable seat pads. Strap your feet flat, straighten the torso while contracting the abdominal muscles, and grab the bar in a palms down grip by bending the knees, not rounding the spine. This starting position is called the catch.

Drive back with the feet to straighten the legs and begin to pull the bar forcefully as the legs finish straightening out. The pulling stroke is a rapid, constant horizontal motion all the way into the mid-section. Recover by bending the knees and straightening the arms to start the forward sliding motion back to the start. Now do it all over again, and again, and again. Catch, Drive, Finish, Recover. Catch, Drive, Finish, Recover.

Engage In Life – Easy Moves To Challenge The Body

I read an interesting statement the other day. THE BODY ADAPTS DOWN. This makes sense when you think about how smart our bodies are.  They can adapt to the most strenuous situations and challenges, so the opposite must be true, too.

If we are physically inactive, muscles become smaller, bones become thinner, hormone production decreases, cellular conversion of energy gets lazy — nature chooses disintegration.

 We are looking at buying a new car, so I turn to the car analogy. Even the most expensive, luxury car won’t run after being left in a garage for too long without use. The batteries will go dead, the tires will go flat. Similarly, a person whose heart, lungs and muscles have gone flat isn’t going to be able to do much.

To avoid this dead battery syndrome, keep yourself active by keeping your body engaged in life.

I’m not talking about extreme exercise, or spending hours at the gym every day, but regular activities that promote deep breathing, sweating, and keeping muscles toned. Walking (especially uphill), swimming, bicycling, resistance training, even just deep breathing are all good activities. How about playing/running with the kids, sweeping the pool (twice maybe), or mopping the floor for that matter, doing some sit-ups or push-ups while you watch your favorite show, get creative, but get moving. Here are a few more suggestions to start you off.

Push-ups – Okay, probably not the most favorite exercise for many people, but there are different ways to do push-ups that don’t make them so hard. You don’t need to pretend you’re “Rocky”, and do them with one hand; just do what works for you. Do them on your knees, instead of keeping your legs straight. Or, do them standing up against a wall. You will be building up arm strength and working out muscles in your chest area.

Jumping Jacks – Does this bring back memories of third grade P.E.? These are always fun, as they bring back memories of being a kid! Well, surprise – they are also great cardio exercises, and good for warming up, too.

Leg Lifts – Leg lifts are great for building up strength and muscles in your legs. Just like with push-ups, there are a few variations. If you find it hard to do the exercises with your legs straight, try bending them slightly.

Dancing – Dancing is a wonderful exercise, which is great for your heart. Not only that, but it can lift your spirits as well, especially if you do some silly and crazy moves with the kids. Crank up the tunes and get moving.

Jogging In Place – Jogging is a great exercise for your heart. You can jog in place at home while watching TV or listening to music. The only equipment you will require is a good pair of shoes, to eliminate any stress to your legs. Mix it up with some high knees.

Squats – Squats are the “go to” exercise for your legs and buttocks. To get the technique down, you can even try these by sitting and standing up again from a regular chair.

The body is a smart cookie, so use this to your advantage by challenging your body and keep it moving to ensure that your body adapts up instead of down.

How To Get The Most Out Of Every Workout – Tips To Do It Right

When you were a kid, how many times did you hear “if you are going to do it… do it right”? How many times have you said this to your own child?

Working out is no different. If you are going to make the effort to show up and exercise, you should do it right so you get the best results and the maximum benefit.  What do you think is the most important part of resistance training? The amount of weight? The number of repetitions? The number of sets? The variety of exercises?

All good guesses, but when doing any type of exercise, especially weight training or resistance training, the correct form is the most important component. If you are lifting a weight that causes you to compromise your form, the weight is too heavy and you are wasting your time. Chances are you are barely working the muscle that you want to work, and you can really risk injuring yourself.

When proper form is followed, weight lifting not only increases your muscle strength but also:

  1. Helps to burn body fat
  2. Improves muscle tone
  3. Increases bone density

In order to maximize the benefits of your weight training program, you’ll want to start with the right amount of weight. To determine this amount for your personal routine, find a weight you are comfortable with. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to lift it 12-15 times. Don’t worry if you don’t choose the right weight on you first time.  It can be a kind of trial and error, until you get that perfect poundage. As your strength increases, gradually up the amount of weight you lift. If the amount of weight you’re lifting affects your form, decrease it, or reduce the number of repetitions.

The more you focus on proper resistance training techniques and form, the more you’ll benefit from your weight training program.

Okay, great Musclemommy!, but how do I learn the right form?  If you are primarily working out at a gym, speak with a trainer.  This does not mean you have to hire a trainer, as most gyms have a handful of trainers that are not busy at any given time, and they should be happy to answer any form and technique questions.  If you are doing exercises at home using DVDs or other equipment, there should always be an informational and instructional section or sheet. Please read it… it can make all the difference. If you’re unsure of the right form to follow after speaking with a trainer or reading instructions, you can always look at weight lifting pictures online or even videos on You Tube. I go to You Tube all the time to check out proper form. And of course there is ‘yours truly’. I will answer any questions you have about…well…most anything that has to do with fitness and nutrition.

Here are a few more tips to keep you safe and maximize your strength training benefits:

1. Before lifting, warm up for 5-10 minutes with cardio activity like walking.

2. As you become familiar with your routine, don’t be tempted to skip your warm up because it will leave you more prone to injury. I will always do a set of 10-15 reps with 2 pound weights, just to get the motion down and the blood pumping. I do this warm up for the first exercise per muscle group.

3. Breath. People are often tempted to hold their breath. In fact, you may not even realize you’re doing it. My trainer used to tell me to breathe all the time. I never realized how often I would hold my breath. Proper breathing is part of proper form. It’s important not to hold your breath because doing so can dangerously raise your blood pressure. Breathe out when you lift and in as you lower the weight. If you find it too hard to concentrate on when to breathe out and when to breathe in, just concentrate on your breathing so that you are taking consistent, deliberate breaths.

4. Don’t hurry through your routine. Keep movements controlled and slow, isolating the muscles you’re working. If you are in a hurry, opt for doing a fewer number of exercises, but focus on your form. Keeping it slow also prevents you from using momentum to lift the weight.

5. Don’t overdo it. If an exercise causes pain, stop immediately. Don’t try it for a few days or reduce the amount of weight you’re lifting.

Read, Set….Do It Right!

 

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