This summer become active for GOOD; break the activity-injury cycle!
I don't know about all of you, but I crave even more activity in the summer; it is like the sunshine is calling to me and inviting me outside. The light just makes me happier and puts an extra pep in my step! The sunlight is motivating!
I am happy to announce that I am not the only one who feels this way — every time I look outside I see people running, walking, and biking. That makes the trainer in me happy!
Now, what doesn't make the trainer in me happy is hearing the stories of people amping up their training routine too quickly, only to get injured and quit their new active lifestyle before it really takes off.
Don't let the pull of the sunshine lure you into a false sense of security; you are not invincible. Don't get caught in the common, yet vicious, cycle of not exercising and feeling guilty, then exercising too intensely too quickly and getting injured, getting discouraged, and quitting.
Break the cycle by following these three simple steps.
1. Take it slow and ramp up your exercise routine gradually.
There are three main training variables you can manipulate so that your exercise routine progresses at a safe pace: duration, frequency, and intensity.
I'd suggest you start by keeping the intensity and frequency of your workouts moderate. Initially just increase the duration of your workouts. This will give you a great foundation to build on as you get stronger.
Start by working out at moderate intensity for 20 minutes, three times per week, on non-consecutive days.
After two to four weeks, begin to increase the duration of your workouts by 10% to 20% each week.
If you are doing a higher-impact activity like jogging, only increase the total time of your workout by 10% a week. That would be an initial increase of two minutes.
If you are doing lower-impact cardio workouts, such as swimming or using an elliptical machine, you can increase the duration by up to 20% a week.
Once you can comfortably do 45 minutes of the activity without any joint pain or muscle strains, start to increase either the intensity or the frequency of your workouts.
2. Manipulate one training variable at a time.
Do not increase the frequency and intensity of your workout within the same week. For example, start by making one of your workouts more intense by incorporating some higher-intensity intervals. After a couple of weeks, play around with another variable — for example add in a fourth workout per week.
3. Prioritize recovery.
Exercise stresses the body. It is only a positive stress if you give your body the ingredients it needs to recover properly.
Being under-recovered is just as bad as being under-trained; being under recovered leads to exhaustion, lethargy, muscle aches, trigger points, and stiffness, and left long enough it will lead to injury. Recovery allows the body to become stronger, leaner, and generally healthier; it puts that extra little energetic pep in one's step. It is not something "extra" you do when time allows.
There are three key elements of recovery: sleep, consuming a nutritionally dense diet, and doing regular body work such as massage.
Your body recovers while you sleep — aim for seven plus hours of quality sleep per night, and prioritize eating nutritionally dense foods.
A healthy diet helps your muscles and connective tissue repair and become stronger.
The more active you are, the more important regular body work and self-care becomes. Even if you can afford to see a massage therapist regularly, most of us need daily self-care. You didn't become chronically stiff and uncomfortable overnight. Like drops in a bucket, small amounts of self-care add up. Try using a foam roller (you have probably seen a foam roller – a long, cylindrical foam tube) and/or small balls for self-massage. I use "yoga tune up balls" — they are made specifically for self-massage. You can also use a lacrosse ball or, if you find lacrosse balls too hard, a tennis ball.