Know The Body You Are Working With
Your body during exercise is a miraculous thing.
It is said that the human body is made up of 640 to 850 muscles. There is no exact given number of muscles in the body because there are various insights on what constitutes a muscle as well as how finite each may be labeled. Nonetheless, 640 or more is a lot! Of these muscles, there are three types: visceral, cardiac and skeletal. The visceral muscles line the body’s internal organs and blood vessels. The cardiac muscle, or the heart, helps you perform cardiac exercise especially aerobic activities. Both the visceral and cardiac muscles are involuntary, while the skeletal muscles that serve a role in the body’s mechanical system, are voluntary. The skeletal muscles are connected to your skeleton by tendons which allow your limbs and other body parts to move. Ligaments work to stabilize and support the joints in your body by connecting bone to bone. With the help of tendons and ligaments, the skeletal muscles allow you to do physical activities like flexibility and stabilization training, anaerobic workouts, and strength based exercises.
Lets look a little closer though.
Have you ever taken a glance at the pictures posted on the equipment at the gym? These pictures help depict what muscle groups you are targeting while performing the exercise on the machine. For example, looking at the leg press machine, there is an image of a man highlighting his quadriceps, hamstrings, and glute muscles. While you are performing this exercise, you can feel these muscles engage, disengage and eventually fatigue over time. After continuous, repeated workloads, these skeletal muscle groups will hypertrophy and strengthen. The same goes for the heart. When you execute numerous consecutive 100 yard sprints, you can feel your heart pumping fast and slowing down as you walk to recover. Exercise is a way to strengthen the muscles of the body.
Maintaining healthy muscles and even tendons and ligaments are critical to maintaining a lifelong exercise regime. However, exercise comes with innate risks-injury.
Common exercise related injuries of soft-tissue are sprains, strains, contusions and overuse injuries. A sprain is a stretch and/or tear of a ligament and a strain is an injury to a muscle and/or tendons. Sprains can vary in severity from-mild, moderate to severe. A contusion is a bruise caused by the crushing of underlying muscle fibers and connective tissue without breaking the skin. Most acute injuries like a sprain, strain and contusion are caused by sudden trauma, like a fall, twist, or blow to the body. Typically it is recommended to treat all three of these injuries with-Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation(R.I.C.E.). Overuse injuries typically occur when performing the same activity or exercise over time, not allowing enough time in between for the injury to heal. Inflammation cases like Bursitis and tendinitis are common overuse injuries. Despite the commonality of exercise injuries the best protocol for all of the above is to prevent them.
Understand your body
Understanding the human anatomy during exercise can be very beneficial, but understanding your gender’s role in your anatomy may prove to be of greater help. Men and women both have sex-related physiologic issues that can set them up for injuries during activity. Men may find that they are simply not as flexible as their female counterpart, and women may choose to pick up some lighter weights while strength training with their male friend!
Warm-up before exercise
A warm-up involving active stretching and mild aerobic activity will allow your body to get the blood flowing to the muscles and loosen you right up. Take about 5 to 10 minutes and try warm-up exercises like jogging in place, arm circles, back bends, jumping jacks, or toe touches.
Cool down after exercise
Just like you must warm-up before exercise to get going, your body needs time to cool down after working out. To cool down properly, simply slow down your movements and turn down the intensity for 5 to 10 minutes. Allow your perspiration to dry on the skin and perform some gentle static stretches.
Speaking of stretching, there is some controversy on when is the best time to stretch, but I like to simply listen to my body. Normally, I do some active stretching during or after my warm-up . This helps me hit any tight spots I get from sitting at work. I also stretch after my workout as a part of my cool down. I hold my stretches for a count of 10-20 seconds focusing on fluid breathing throughout. Remember, do not pulse your stretches!
I’ve made this mistake one too many times. Attending a hot yoga class or doing any exercise where you perspire and lose your water stores is almost a sure fire way to ensure post-workout muscle cramps. Drinking enough water before, during, and after activity can help prevent dehydration, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion. Try drinking 10 to 24 ounces of water before and after your workout. Drink water every 20 minutes during activity.
Wear the right clothes
I cannot iterate the importance of the right clothes for activity. A running shoe is not ideal for strength training, while a flat, stable shoe is. Loose fitting, comfortable, and breathable clothes should be worn at all times. To avoid being stuck in your stiff office clothes at the gym, pack your gym bag and put it in the car the night before you head to work.
Ensure your fitness regimen has a balance of strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility training. Always add new activities cautiously by limiting weight or simply trying only one to two new exercises per workout. Your body will adjust over time and be ready for the next new thing you try throwing at it!
Do not over or under do
Remaining active and dedicated to a fitness regimen can be hard work, but having regular rest days are equally important to preventing injuries. Keeping active can help you stay away from injuries caused from inactivity or sitting. On the flip side, exercise can also cause aches and pains. So heed to your body’s fatigue; it is simply letting you know that it needs time to take it easy and recoup before you push it into injury. There is a happy medium of being active and letting your body rest, just listen to it!
Use equipment properly
Form is critical to avoiding unnecessary injuries especially to your joints. Trained fitness professionals have a keen eye to watch for factors that can set your body out of alignment and potentially cause injury. They can teach you how to appropriately progress in weight and modify exercises for your body type. Knowing how to safely use equipment can not only improve your workout routines but also lessen your likelihood of injury.
Use these tips to make sure you never find yourself out of commision due to injury!
– CASEY EDMONDS, CHC