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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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Taking it To the Limit
by Bernard L. Gladieux Jr.

Within each of us is an explorer, and within every explorer are visions of new frontiers.

In a very real sense, exploring the limits of our own, individual capacity and capabilities gives every one of us a great, ever-new territory to discover.  For the action oriented and outdoor athletes the options can be deeply rewarding, occasionally life changing.

Whatever your vehicle in, say, endurance sports like running, cycling or swimming or  adventure sports like hiking, climbing, kayaking or wilderness travel, just what you choose to do is less important than that you take to the journey with all your heart and make it your own.

Here are some thoughts on the inner exploration that will be the precursor to whatever path you take:

Try Something New: 
You needn’t do anything foolhardy or truly dangerous, but be bold; be adventurous.  It will help to ease your thinking into new channels.  Start by preparing yourself mentally and physically.  Read something entirely new to your experience – a book or a magazine even something as prosaic as the travel section of your Sunday newspaper.  Dare to dream, and then allow your dreams to grow and develop into preliminary planning.  It may be a rafting adventure, a safari, back packing, ocean kayaking, ballooning or skiing.  Adventure can be as exotic or as taxing as you decide to make it.  Just choose intelligent, gradual changes in your preparations like physical and technical training, as necessary, to move toward your goals.

Push to Your Limits:
But don’t break your physical budget.  In time everyone begins to wear out parts and gradually to slow down.  Some quickly use up their physical capital in fast living and bad lifestyle choices, age fast, fade and retire from life.  Beware of these traps.  A couple of years ago Joe Henderson, a prodigious endurance runner and sensitive, talented writer noted that the three questions he was asked the most often were: “How to run faster, how to run longer and how to get over the injury caused by running faster and longer.”

Seek:  
In endurance athletics, as in other areas of human endeavor, generally the best information comes from those who have been at it the longest.  They are the ones who seem to have run smartest, kept their balance about it and survived.  You don’t have to believe everything you hear from these old-timers, but listen well.

Take Your Rest:
Rest should be a part of every phase of your physical training.  Take it whenever your instincts tell you that you require it. Long term success and happiness from activity requiring physical endurance and strength depends a great deal on self-knowledge which includes knowing when to ease up and when to lay off.  Rest is the critical flip side of effort.  If you are in the daily, hard, training habit or use the high-powered training program developed for a world class, elite runner, there is a good chance your improvement will be frustratingly slow or that you will find yourself on the edge of overuse injury.  The problems you experience may not be due at all to your own, inherent limitations, but could be just the result of a training routine that is unremittingly and inappropriately intense for you.

Play
Injury, fatigue, boredom, tension, depression and a variety of other early signs of burnout will invariably cut short any voyage of self discovery and exotic exploration.  The best remedy, happily, is the most pleasant and the easiest to carry out.  Simply let go, and play as if you were a child, and the world were your playground – which it can be if you make it so.

In Good Health,
Bernard (Bun) Gladieux

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