Almost everyone I know loves it when they can really see the results from their hard work. Whether it’s a student that studied hard to get an A, getting that long awaited promotion at work, hitting your weight loss goal on a diet, or reaching that next level with exercise we just love patting ourselves on the back and saying, “I did it!”. It would even appear that for most people today the only way to make hitting to goal better is to get there faster. Of course, this is not surprising in our “fast food” culture today. We want it now or even yesterday if that is possible. This combined obsession of “hitting the goal” and “doing it faster” often times leads to less than desirable avenues for trying to achieve our goals, which ultimately can be very counter productive.
Starting a new exercise program is a classic example. You will often hear stories of how someone that has not exercised in years finally makes the commitment to “Get back into shape” and even buys a year long membership at the local gym. Then after just one or two trips to the gym they give up on their goal and eat the year long membership. How does that happen? Most often this happens as a result of their mindset when they started their first workout. Thinking that exercising harder is going to provide a bigger and faster payoff and besides, “I used to do even more exercise that this”. You can almost hear them thinking, “I can get the body of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in just one day!” Unfortunately, exercising harder without giving your body adequate preparation can often times lead to a serious injury and almost always leads to several days of muscular soreness. Serious muscular soreness is frequently enough to discourage them from going back to the gym and if an injury does occur they can end up laid up for days or even weeks and could even require rehabilitation just to recover from their self inflicted injury. In either case they are right back at the beginning in terms of their fitness, strength, and endurance. The best way to avoid injury and to ensure that you continue with your new exercise program so that you can experience all the health benefits from exercise is to first learn how to exercise smarter.
How Do You Exercise Smarter?
Exercising smarter can be easily summed up in one sentence. Start with what your body is capable of doing, and then gradually doing a bit more. The hardest part of this equation is knowing what you are capable of if you haven’t exercised in years. However, the answer to that is quite simple: very little! When it comes to benefits of exercise they are not experienced from one day of intense activity but rather from a regular schedule of gradually progressive exercise over a period of months and years. The same rules apply even for a person that has already been exercising regularly for years if they have not been using a gradually progressive program of exercise. For example, a runner that has run three miles a day, three times a week for several years it would not be advisable to do an eight-mile run the next time they go out. Even through they may be in “good shape” this sudden increase in their exercise would most likely leave them with strained muscles, shin splints, or worse. As another example, a person that has done weight training for several years bench pressing 100 pounds for 3 sets of 10 repetitions 3 times a week, decides to try using 150 pounds today. This could very easily lead to muscular or ligamentous strains in the back, neck, shoulder, elbow or wrist. In either scenario, the results from training “harder” is a two week vacation from exercising and possibly much longer. Of course, almost everyone that has done exercise at any level has made mistakes and injuries can occur even when you are training smart, but especially for the person that is just getting back into exercise doing too much too fast is not, “smart.”
The Smartest Exercise is Exercising for Life
The goal with exercise is gradual progression over a period of time. For example, if you’re 60 years old and haven’t exercised for many years, a walking program is a good way to begin. On your first day, walk at a comfortable, steady pace for 5-10 minutes. It should truly feel like you didn’t do much, but remember you will be gradually increasing your time and then increasing your pace over a period of weeks and months. Each day you add a couple of minutes but maintain your original pace. Building up the number of minutes until you are at 30 minutes. If you find that at a certain number of minutes you feel like you really had to push yourself to complete it, then maintain that number of minute for a few days until completing it feels better before adding more minutes. Once you are walking 30 minutes a day, five times a week comfortably you are ready for the next progression. For your next walk you will reduce your time to 10-15 but increase your pace a bit then each day maintaining this new pace you will once again progress the number of minutes up to 30. Each time that you get up to 30 minutes comfortably you will then reduce your minutes, increase your pace, and build back up to 30 minutes. Rinse and repeat!
Of course you don’t want to increase your pace if your feeling uncomfortable or over stress by the currently level of walking. If your current level of minutes and pace is really pushing you then you either maintain it until it feels better or even back off a bit and let your body catch up before increasing again. The key here is that you want your program of exercise to be progressive while at the same time listening to what your body is telling you. After four to six cycles of gradually increasing minutes and your pace, you should be able to walk 30 minutes a day, five days a week, at a nice brisk pace. You may also notice some weight loss. an increase if energy levels, you feel more flexible, you’re posture is more upright, your skin looks and feels healthier, and you’re sleeping more soundly and feeling better rested in the morning.
The same gradual approach can be used with almost any type of exercise whether it is weight training, yoga, pilates or tai chi. Always start with less than you know you could use. Whether it is lighter weights, less repetitions or less intensity, you can build up your strength and endurance over time. Remember that with weight training too heavy = risk of injuy and injury = a loss of training. Exercising smarter leads to improved metabolism, improved strength, gaining lean muscle mass, reducing body fat, the ability to do the things that you enjoy, and overall better health.
Another Smart Decision!
Chiropractic care is a great compliment to smart exercise. While you are making gradual progress in strength and fitness small injuries can happen and often times go unnoticed or are thought that to be a normal result from exercise. Chiropractic care can help prevent unexpected injury by ensuring that your joint mobility is maintained and helps you to recover faster if an injury does occur. Every level of athlete from the high school athlete to professionals of every sport and even Olympic athletes report that regular chiropractic care helps to improve their performance and to speed their recovery from injuries and the same thing applies to the person that hasn’t exercised in years that is just getting back into shape. Chiropractic care can help to make your process of “getting back into shape” more comfortable and more rewarding.
The majority of injuries that occur from a smart and progressive exercise program are the result of tight muscles and a loss of flexibility. Regular chiropractic care helps to restore and maintain the flexibility of the joints in your spine, which can reduce the tightness in the associated muscles of your spine. Resulting is a spine with better mobility that can handle the physical requirements of exercise and is less prone to injury. Regular chiropractic care enables us to get the most out of our exercise program and achieve our goals of life long health and well-being.
Of course it is natural to want to exercise harder and faster but exercising smarter is the way to go for the greatest benefits while reducing the risk of injury.
Exercise Smarter – Just Do It!
Whether you are just getting started with a new exercise program and would like some advice on how to design it or if you are already a fitness buff and want to ensure that you are getting the most from your exercise; chiropractic care can be an invaluable tool in your health program. You don’t have to wait until you already have an injury to start taking good care of your spine. Give us a call to find out how we can assist you in achieving your fitness goals.
For Your Health,
Dr. Scott Van Dam