Thursday, September 11, 2008

Injuries: Just Say No

Once again, Beachbody has provided some great information that I would like to share with you.

Injuries: Just Say No By Steve Edwards

One of the most frustrating scenarios we face is when we finally make that commitment to our health, begin to work out, and then find ourselves sidelined due to an injury. In this two-part series, we'll take a simple look at how to best avoid getting injured, and what to do should our precautions fail.

We'll all face an injury of some kind during our lifetimes. Accidents are unavoidable. But when you're exercising to improve your health, physical setbacks are more frustrating than normal. On the flip side, if you don't exercise, your body will age faster, break down quicker, and die younger. Looking at the big picture can help motivate you to Push Play. Nothing, however, can derail this motivation faster than a nagging injury. After all, you may only be exercising to make yourself feel better. And injuries make you feel worse. But before you resign yourself to the "what's the point?" attitude, read on. This week, we'll show you how to greatly reduce your chance of getting injured in the first place. Next week, we'll discuss how you can get back on your feet quickly when you do get injured.

Why we get injured

There are two types of injury: acute and chronic. An acute injury occurs when something overloads your system beyond its capacity to buffer it—like getting hit by a car or falling off your bike. A chronic injury is one that's created by overusing a body part until it breaks down.

Car AccidentAcute injuries can't be prevented. Nothing can prepare you for a car accident, unless you know how to construct a Batman suit. But you can prepare yourself to better fend off minor acute injuries. Exercise can fashion a somewhat natural Batman suit out of your body. It won't fend off a car, but it can prepare you to deal with adversity more efficiently.

Chronic injuries can almost always be avoided because overuse injuries are generally due to muscular imbalance and/or lack of proper range of motion. By properly training your body, muscles will be balanced, bones will be dense, and body parts will be supple. When you get this formula right, chronic injuries almost never happen.

Overworked LegBut doing this is easier said than done. Even top-flight athletes have trouble with keeping their bodies in balance. The reason is that it takes both dedication and discipline. Most of us just want to do whatever it is we find entertaining when we exercise. The little things that keep us injury free can be mundane. As boring as this may be, it's a lot more fun than being injured. Let's take a look at the basics to staying healthy.

Warming up

Warming up properly seems like a waste of time. Who hasn't, at one time or another, jumped right into an intensive workout like P90X® or Turbo Jam® and walked away unscathed? But if you want to remain uninjured, nothing stacks the odds in your favor as much as thoroughly warming up your body to get it ready for the rigors of exercise.

Warming UpAcute injuries aren't just accidents. Putting stress on a cold system can cause acute injury, even with resistance that you can normally handle easily. The reason is that when you're cold, your muscles are actually gel-like. As they warm up, they become more viscous, kind of like oil in your car engine. This process is called thixotropy. As you increase your heart rate, your core body temperature heats up. When this happens, your muscular viscosity decreases, and you become more supple and ready to handle the stresses of exercise.

A proper warm-up starts out slow and gradually increases in intensity. Once your blood is moving, easy, short stretches help elongate your muscles so that they're ready for the intense contractions that will happen later. Note that long, slow stretching should be avoided as part of the warm-up. The type of stretching that you do to increase your flexibility should be done post-exercise. Pre-exercise stretches should remain very low on the intensity scale. They serve only to loosen up the body to its current range-of-motion abilities, not to increase that range.

Cooling down

Cooling DownA good workout stresses your body. Your heart rate increases to near its maximum, and muscles are contracted at high speed. If you finish a hard workout and walk away without a cooldown, your body settles into a contracted state. When this happens, the damage incurred during the workout is exacerbated and your body can't recover well. A proper cooldown eases your heart rate and stretches out your muscle fibers. This begins the healing process and speeds up your recovery time.

A good cooldown consists of moving your body slower and slower, allowing your heart rate to drop. When it gets low—under 100 beats per minute—you should begin stretching out all of the muscles worked during the workout. It's best to start with easy ballistic stretches. These can be followed by slower, longer, static stretches. If you want to do a full-blown stretching session with the aim of increasing your body's range of motion, this is a good time to do that.

Staying limber

As stated before, working out contracts your muscles. To stay in balance, you need to stretch them out. Failing to stretch out your muscles leaves their fiber strands knotted close together. Muscles in this state are very susceptible to overload and, hence, injury. Properly stretched muscle fibers have far more of a buffer zone than unstretched ones. They can take the same force loads more easily because they have more room to contract. Staying limber is a good way to avoid injury.

1.Have an annual assessment from a physical therapist. They can put you through a series of exercises that can determine your muscular health. If they do find an imbalance, it can usually be cured with a few simple exercises.

2.Remember those physical therapist visits. Whenever you get sent to a physical therapist, remember the exercises that you're given. Once you've injured an area, that area will always be susceptible to being reinjured. The exercises prescribed should be done, at least on occasion, for the rest of your life. If you have enough injuries (like me), your arsenal of rehab exercises begins to grow, and eventually, you'll know how to avoid all imbalances.

3.Do yoga. It targets muscular balance more than any other type of exercise. Doing yoga for a day or so per week will keep your body both balanced and supple and greatly facilitate all other training.

4.Total Body Solution™. Debbie Siebers and neurophysiologist Chad Waterbury have created a new DVD program featuring a series of assessments and drills to increase range of motion, help relieve pain, and prevent strain in commonly stressed areas like the shoulders, neck, core, lower back, and knees.

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