THE SECOND METABOLIC FITNESS TIP TO AVOID FITNESS SABOTAGE
Be in control!
To curb both the metabolic effects of high intensity exercise, and to avoid injury, you have to take control of your exercise program. I talked at length in my last post about the implications of high intensity exercise. Check it out here for more information on how high intensity affects your health and metabolism. It is important you make sure your fitness efforts are matching your fitness goals. I mention in previous posts how our goals are often not to become bigger, faster, stronger, but instead to be lean and feel great.
Often, exercises which help you become bigger, faster, stronger are based on building your power. This means they are based on quick, explosive movements. Although great for high school and college athletes, for the weekend warriors, power training often creates situations where momentum takes over, form falls apart and injury becomes inevitable. I see injuries from these events in the clinic all the time now. I have talked to several orthopedic surgeons about these styles of momentum-based strength training and they report they are also seeing an increasing number of injuries requiring surgery. When deciding on a fitness program you have to consider your true goal. Are you looking to become a better athlete, or just get in better shape? If you just want to get in better shape and feel good, you’re probably better off taking it easier on your body. Sticking to a moderate fitness regimen based on steady, controlled strengthening will help you achieve your goal more effectively without the risk of injury.
One common argument I hear from momentum-based strength trainers is that runners get injuries all the time too. This is very true. The argument has a few holes in it though. First, there are a lot more people running than doing these intensive exercise programs. Also, most running injuries require some strengthening, stretching, relative rest, or sometimes just new shoes to correct. Many injuries from momentum-based strength training require major time off or even serious surgery. I also believe momentum-based strength training doesn’t build the body type most people are actually looking for, but that is a debate for another post.
You might now be thinking, “So, if momentum-based strengthening doesn’t fit my goals, then what should I do?” The answer is slow, controlled reps where you can ensure perfect form every time. Avoid swinging the weights or anything where you are throwing your whole body to get a weight stack or barbell up. One major rule I use is to ask myself, “Can I stop and hold this lift at any time?” If I can’t at any point stop and hold the position, then I’m using momentum instead of true strength to get the weight up. Not only are you putting yourself at risk for injury, but you aren’t getting the full training effect of the lift. If you can’t do the exercise with a perfectly still core and maintaining a neutral spine the entire time, you are using too much weight and poor technique.
If you aren’t sure what perfect form is for an exercise, talk to a Physical Therapist. Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists are the only licensed professionals who have been trained in exercise prescription. No other health care profession has received the requisite training in the anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, exercise and advanced analysis of movement (There's my shameless plug for the profession). Getting help from a fitness professional is critical. The more formal education they have, the more likely they are to be qualified. Make sure the person is experienced, credentialed and understands YOUR fitness goals. Making sure you know the purpose of each exercise you do, and that your form is actually meeting the intended purpose is very important. I see some creative stuff in the gym. Some of it I find to be smart and intriguing ways to work a muscle group; other exercises I find dangerous, inefficient, and sometimes humorous.
Aside from safety, one of the key reasons why slow, controlled reps help prevent injury is due to physiological adaptation. It takes our muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and joints time to adapt and change to the forces placed on them. If we don’t allow the tendinous and ligamentous attachments in our bodies to sufficiently strengthen before increasing weight or intensity, we can cause breakdown of those junctions. Our muscles seem to make strengthening adaptations more rapidly than our tendinous attachments to bone do. Adding momentum-based strategies compounds the forces placed on our soft tissues. Often this results in tendinitis, but can lead to tendinous ruptures and other ligament or joint capsule injuries. This is really common in the shoulders with power lifters or those doing repetitive overhead momentum-based lifts.
Most of this post has focused on control with strength training. Similar principles apply to our cardio workouts. First, you don’t have to kill yourself and go all out all the time – this can cause trouble too (See my previous post on this topic). Second, progress slowly. I’ll address this more next post. Essentially, give your body time to catch up and make the physiological changes it needs to. This will help you bolster and slowly stretch out your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints to be able to handle the new loads placed on them.
Essentially, my 2nd key to fitness is to Take Control of YOUR Fitness. From the goal-setting stage to the planning and the day-to-day grind of exercise, make sure your efforts match your goals and aren’t working to sabotage you. Fatigue, depletion, and injury are easy enemies to let in the gate. Many in the fitness industry use the Trojan horse of sexy models and big promises to make you think you have to kill yourself and spend lots of money on the latest supplements and equipment. I won’t make you any promises of success because, unfortunately, just like me, you have to put in the work to see the results. Sometimes our fitness efforts work to frustrate or derail us from our ultimate goal of leading healthy happy lives. What I hope my fitness tips have shown you is a piece of the puzzle for getting the results you want without the self sabotage.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can learn to “Take Control of Your Fitness,” feel free to contact Cameron Garber, DPT at 801-479-4471 (call or text) or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to like my Facebook page to stay up to date with my latest posts.