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YOU AND YOUR MUSCLES, TENDING TO YOUR POWER PLANT
By Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.

Nearly all training athletes experience some post workout muscle soreness. Non athletes and newcomers to physical exercise may wonder if it is even worth the agony. To people who are unaccustomed to the transient pain that often follows high intensity effort, and those with low pain thresholds, it may not be. To the committed veteran, elite athlete however, garden variety muscle stiffness, soreness and other soft tissue aches and pains are just an acceptable feature of the sport – like thorns amongst the roses. Moreover, a certain level of pain goes with the territory, and veteran athletes come to accept the post workout mix of fatigue and soreness as a sign that in the recovery, the body is assimilating, repairing and restoring to come back stronger, tomorrow or next week.

Macho stoicism can help you cope with such pain to a certain point, but even the toughest athlete performs better and is happier when the recovery passes rapidly and the sore, stiff feeling doesn’t linger. Here are some simple techniques for handling, managing and minimizing the distracting, if benign muscle pain virtually all athletes come to know in due course.


Distinguish:

Learn first how to tell the difference between pain that will go away promptly after a few ibuprofen and some rest and pain that has decided to take up long term residence in your body. If pain has taken a long time to build, slowly increasing in severity over time even though you’ve tried to ignore it, chances are, it will take just as long or longer to go away – assuming you will give it the proper care and rest. The worst that you can do is to try to banish the pain as an act of will. You will not recover from a chronic injury if you continuously repeat the trauma, whatever it may be and however subtle. You would think the idea is too, too obvious. Unfortunately, many athletes, especially those hooked on endurance training all too often allow the triumph of blind hope over experience and common sense.

Prevention:
Simple muscle soreness that fades after a day or so does indicate that your soft tissues are going through a training cycle in which, all else being equal, they will be stronger when they feel better. Trick is to train just hard or long enough so that the soreness does go away after a reasonable recovery, say, 24 to 48 hours. To enhance your recovery, always be sure you have plenty of water in your gut before, during and after every training session. The hotter the outside temperature and the more intense the training, the more important good hydration is. Especially when it is hot and humid and the effort is going to last more than an hour or so, do consider adding specific electrolytes before, during and after. They can keep you from cramping, bonking and just feeling crummy.

Warm ups:
Failure to ease into hard effort may be the most frequent cause of lingering muscle pain. Muscle fibers flex and stretch against one another in an infinite number of interfaces underneath those ripples. To work efficiently, they need to be thoroughly lubricated. When you warm up, that is what goes on inside your muscles and explains why you can make some muscle soreness go away by easing into a workout with a long warmup. Almost as important is a gradual cool down that keeps your heart rate up at a fairly high, albeit sub-aerobic level for at least a few minutes at the end of the session. That permitsthe blood to carry away the accumulated lactic acid in the muscle tissues, a biochemical cause of muscle soreness.

Stretching:
Although there are still doubters around, the general consensus among trainers and rehab specialists on the efficacy of stretching for athletes is in favor of it. If you stretch deliberately and regularly when the muscles are well warmed, it will enhance your flexibility and will probably reduce a lot of exercise related pain.

Drugs:
Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin are favored by many trainers and athletes for sore muscles and do seem to provide genuine, if temporary, relief. As a general rule, however, prudent athletes try to take these apparently benign, over-the-counter drugs only when they are really needed.

Massage:
firm, deep manipulation of your muscles before and after exercise will almost always make sore muscles feel better, and some times, under skilled hands the results are dramatic. If you are a serious, training athlete, seek out a good, regular massage therapist on whom you can call both before and after important races and training sessions.

In Good Health,
Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
President
The Pressure Positive Company®

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By Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.

Overuse injuries, although they often seem quite straight forward, can be, in fact, quite complicated in that they are often caused by a combination of factors that vary widely from person to person. So, whether you are a weekend jogger and spend your work days at a desk or a bench or you are an elite, daily training, competitive athlete, there are some ways you can safely navigate around and through the many risk factors that will threaten your continued mobility, fitness, good health and longevity in the short or the long run.

So, as you make choices about your exercise, how often, how intensely and at what activities, here are some things to think about:

Form and style:
Much athletic coaching and training concentrates on the details of movement. If you are fortunate to have been taught by a skilled and experienced athletic instructor as a young person in, say, junior high or high school, you will have learned all about how to run, how to breathe, how to pace yourself. Now, as you may be contemplating your athletic renaissance, remember all that good advice and put it to use.

If you are just now starting from scratch, find a trainer or an experienced mentor coach or friend to help you get it right.Very often a local club is a good place to start with club runs or rides among contemporaries. Keep your eyes and ears open for tips on how to move smoothly and efficiently. In running especially, economy of movement follows form and style very closely and will minimize early fatigue that will in turn help to forestall injury from inefficient form.

Frequency in balance
One of the earliest decisions you may have to make is how often you are going to challenge your body in the activity you select.Be aware that one of the most serious risks in the early stages of most quality exercise programs results from an early excess of enthusiasm. It doesn’t take long for the beginner jogger or cyclist or walker or weightlifter to start feeling the uplifting effects of physical activity. You will know it by the giddy feeling of exhilaration and invincibility that recent converts often demonstrate while in the “honeymoon phase.” It is typically a happy time, but, as rewarding as regular exercise can be, it is not without its hazards. So it pays to be aware that injury can sneak up on you. Your best defense is to listen to signals from your body and to schedule your program so that you allow an appropriate amount of time for recovery after every effort. For a normal workout that may be only a day or for something extraordinary like a marathon, it might require a month before you are back to a normal.

Learning curve:
In time you will accumulate knowledge about your own limits and what works for you and what doesn’t.Always be open to learning more – more about yourself and more about everything that bears on your well being from diet to rest, stretching to cross training. Although exercise is not like neurosurgery in its intellectual demands, it greatly benefits from a basic academic knowledge of anatomy, physiology, nutrition and any sports medicine you can absorb. These days extensive research information is widely available on the Internet.

Taking your time:
Look first at your carefully structured plan to become permanently more fit and strong in the longer term. Consider the stepping stones towards whatever goal you decide to aim for. It may simply be to remain upright and moving for the next twenty or forty years.If you are aiming for something more dramatic and shorter term, your accelerated schedule will demand more intensity as well as more discipline and caution. In terms of your daily activities, try to get in the habit of easing into your training mode of choice with deliberate restraint. One technique that you may soon discover on your own will increase your endurance significantly: Simply warm up slowly for twenty minutes to half an hour before starting any demanding activity.

Muscle balance:
Every experienced athlete knows that the exercised muscle inevitably becomes stronger, and the unexercised muscle does not. Accordingly a sport in which only a limited number of specific muscles are engaged may leave you with neglected, relatively weaker muscles.That difference between opposing muscles can easily result in an imbalance that often leads to acute muscle strains and other injuries that are entirely preventable by a regular, balanced strength training regimen. Maintaining a basic muscle balance is not difficult and does not necessarily involve an extraordinary time commitment. At the outset, however you may have to alter your habitual routine in order, for example, to begin a twice a week weight training program.

With the help of a trained exercise therapist or athletic trainer, you can create a sequence of exercises appropriately tailored to your own, specific needs and goals.

Become an adventurer; mix it up:
Once you are in the habit of training regularly, you can start experimenting with new ways to add variety to your exercise that will enhance your enjoyment. Increase your resistance to overuse related injuries and improve the efficiency of your form. This approach is often referred to as “cross training.” In concept, cross training is simplicity itself: you exercise your primary muscles and allow plenty of time between workouts to allow your muscles to recover and repair; but instead of taking a nap, you go workout at something entirely different. Of course cross trainers can wear down, become plagued by chronic fatigue, reduce their resistance to colds and other infections, but by spreading the stress around your own, more vulnerable trouble spots, you reduce the risk that any one will break down.

Outlook and simple pleasures:
Always keep in mind that whatever you do to attain and protect your health and fitness, it should be something that yields you intrinsic rewards.That is pleasure from the sheer pleasure of the experience. Never let that thought go.Everything else is gravy.

In Good Health
(Bun)
Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
President
The Pressure Positive Company

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Your Own, Personal Road to Fitness
By Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
President, The Pressure Positive Company

Choosing a sport or a mode of physical activity for fun and fitness can be as easy as falling off a log. It can also be as risky for your body and spirit if your choice takes you away from your physical or psychic or practical center.

roadtofitnessIt does seem that some of us drift into our sport and fitness activities without much conscious analysis. We just go with the flow. If the flow leads us into a successful path to find health, happiness and fulfillment, Hooray! But if continued athletic success seems elusive, another look at who and what you are just might lead you in a more rewarding direction. Here are some thoughts about making smart, personal choices.

BODY TYPE:
In great measure what you are given controls what you will become. That is not to say that you have no options that will allow you to carry yourself beyond the expectations you, your friends and family might harbor for you. But if you find, for example, that your running or jogging has begun to wear thin or to leave you fatigued or hurting, it could be that your genetic gifts make you more like a Clydesdale draft horse while you have been exercising more like a gazelle or a cheetah. Take a clear, hard look at yourself. You may not want to shift from running 10 K races to pulling a beer wagon, but having a sound view of your physical strengths and gaps will help in setting your track and staying on it.

HISTORY:
Childhood sports experiences can create lifelong interests, attitudes and skills. They can also burn you out, sometimes for life. If you have a powerful and positive early sport or athletic background, use what you retain of it to support your activity whatever it may be. If your background is absent or negative, think of it as just another challenge to transcend. If you are athletically inexperienced, no matter what your age, you can begin walking and/or jogging any time. These activities are as far away as the first step. Use common sense and check with your physician if you have the slightest doubts.

VULNERABILITIES:
A football knee, a touchy sciatic nerve, a Morton’s toe – name your weak spot; we all have at least one. Some of us tend to entire gardens of chronic injuries and anomalies. Know yours, and be able to assess their impact on your athletic viability. Clearly if running invariably stirs up an Achilles’ tendonitis, opting for an activity that spares you high-impact bouncing makes a lot of sense. Serious leg problems need not end a runner’s athletic career, but once they are chronic, they need tending to, and in general, the sooner, the better. Chronic injuries could require a temporary, partial or perhaps a full and permanent shift from running into some other training regimen that maintains your conditioning but affords your body its healing respite.

GRIT:
If there is one characteristic that is common to just about every marathon runner, it is the mental toughness necessary simply to survive the enervating, sometimes numbing hours of training. Doing it, sticking to it and following through are not for the faint- hearted or the tentative. But you can be a runner without ever running a marathon or wanting to run one. Take your training and your competing only as far as you choose and can sustain out of your own, internal enthusiasm and fortitude.

AGE:
Elderliness seems to be less a barrier to athletic achievement than ever. Still age does demand certain caution and concessions. Know when to quit the racing circuit and head out from the competitive arena into calmer, safer pastures. If you are older and are just thinking about starting to exercise, start slowly, take your time, rest early and often and quit at the drop of a hat to come back another day.

PRIORITIES AND GOALS:
Setting your own, internally directed training and competitive objectives, if any, is arguably one of the most important steps you will take in the months ahead. Be deliberate and sober about it, but don’t shy away from your own best visions of what might be, given who and what you are.

In Good Health,
Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
President, The Pressure Positive Co.

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