Vitals: Your Workout is Hurting You

“I don’t workout because my friends who workout are always injured.” -Non-exerciser

Logic provides that injury is inevitable, no matter what you do, but you can minimise your injury cycle from exercise with a smart approach to your workouts, and a sensible plan to address injuries.

Welcome back to Vitals, our new blog series where we talk about ways to improve your health through fitness, nutrition and other avenues of wellness. In case, you missed our first installment, have a read when time provides. Today’s blog is by our resident fitness professional, Damon Mitchell, a retired fitness industry crony cum writer.

Injury is Inevitable

Injury is Inevitable

“You might fall between that chair and this television.” - Elijah’s Mother in the movie Unbreakable, to her son, when he refuses to leave the house for fear he may get hurt.

We could spend days debating the potential injury cycle of different exercise formats over others. Regardless of where you engage in physical activities, life on this spinning globe often presents precarious environments.

My hands are constantly in a state of healing from minor scrapes, bruised knuckles, or tweaked joints. Nary a day passes where I don’t shoulder check some doorframe. I’ve clobbered my head more times than I care to swear about it.

Injury is a result of accidents. Those accidents are usually a result of habit. I bang my fingers on the drawers I open fifty times a day, clobber the doorframe on the same spot entering the bathroom, hit my head on… well, okay you got me there: everything.

Injury is sometimes a case of trauma.png

Injury is sometimes a case of trauma, like a car accident, but most injuries are a combination of timing and movement patterns we’ve spent our lives learning.

The person who dedicated his time to learning better movement patterns, strengthening his ability to move quickly or with power, in theory, should be able to avoid some of these patterns that result in injury. Key word being theory. It doesn’t work out quite that perfectly, but the net gain is worth it.

There is so much more benefit to regular exercise that escapes the concerns for injuries. The short list includes, increased cardiorespiratory function, full motor-unit recruitment of the skeletal muscles, flexibility, stabilization [read: less falling], stronger bones, stronger blood vessels, decreased risk of disease, socialisation opportunities, and so on.

Concern over the occasional injury starts to sound silly in the face of all that’s gained from an active lifestyle.

Educated Exercise is Ideal

Educated Exercise is Ideal

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” -Aristotle

For those who are regular exercisers, education is the single most powerful driving force just behind habit. Sadly, the science of exercise is pretty simple in most cases. You move, your body burns calories. You feed your body, it grows. You starve it, it shrinks. Every detail beyond that is about moving better.

While at the surface those movements look pretty easy, as you drill into the details of movement patterns you learn that there is so much more going on below the surface than you can see from the outside.

It was twenty years of lifting wrong for me to learn the right way to bench press. In the end, it was a series of lessons and pain which culminated in the actualization that I may not know what I once thought I knew about how to bench press correctly.

For the person just starting out, the best course is education. I’m going to give you this advice, knowing it will likely be lost in the wind, but that you start light. When just starting to workout, your body will get strong fast. Resist the urge to follow that path for as long as you can, loading on more weight or running harder.

Stick to improving your technique as long as you can stand it. Listen to the longest-held advice, from the most aged exercisers you can find. Reject revolutionary for now. (There is nothing revolutionary.)

Treating Injuries Well is Critical.png

Treating Injuries Well is Critical

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” John F. Kennedy, US President

Sorry to quote a US president in an Australian blog, but Kennedy’s advice applies. You would be wise to stop separating therapy and exercise like they are independent. All good exercisers know that therapy in some form takes a percentage of every hour dedicated to movement.

Wrapping muscles is a good skill to pick up.

About 99% of our injuries are results of regular movement patterns, not trauma. We are always simultaneously working on moving more efficiently alongside developing patterns that may one day injure us. This is the movement paradox, which affects exercisers and non-exercisers alike.

Remember, injury is inevitable.

Remember, injury is inevitable.

What you can do to stave this off is maintain your therapy work alongside your exercise. The beauty part of this is that, whether you try to or not, your body will balance this equation for you.

If you are too busy to warm up before your workouts, you will likely suffer an injury that will force you to slow down. In this case, leading up to the injury you allowed 0% of your time for maintenance. Now you'll be spending 100% on repair.

It would have been wise to allot some 10-20% of your time to warming up all the time. Foam roller anyone? Perhaps you consider a new approach going forward.

Your workout hurts you because life hurts you sometimes. It’s not the fault of your workout. It’s what happens when we get up from our beds and go out into the world. Making the rationale that means we should avoid exercise is illogical.


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