Category Archives: injury

The key to a longer life? You may be standing on it.

You know what’s scary? Not being able to rise from the sofa without pushing off with your hands. Did you know that strong quadriceps can equal longer life?

Your quadriceps—or quads—are the large muscles on the front of your thighs. You use them whenever you move, but especially for climbing stairs, walking, and pushing yourself up out of that chair or sofa. When your quads are strong, you will more easily climb stairs without losing your balance, but when you do slip on a pebble and falter, they’ll likely be the muscles that save you from falling. So when the quads are weak, you are more at risk for falls. You’re also more likely to spend too much time sitting. And of course too much sitting leads to weight gain… and we all know the downward spiral that can lead to in the body.

People who are more mobile tend to live longer, and with weak quadriceps muscles you’ll be less mobile. It’s tremendously important to work the muscles in your legs so you can stay active. Try sitting on a bench and coming to an upright standing position without moving your feet—do it 10 times or so until you feel a burn in your thighs. (Make sure to keep your knees over your ankles, never over your toes!) Squats and leg presses are excellent exercises for your quads, but be sure you ask a professional or friend who knows proper form to show you how to perform the exercises before you try them. It takes some work to stay healthy, but it’s worth it!

Down, but SO Not Out

It’s not easy to admit that my body is getting older. I subscribe fully to the truth that age is only a number, otherwise meaningless. I put my body through workouts now that are possibly tougher than some of the ones I did 20 years ago. And yet, I am learning I am not invincible. To be fair, I wasn’t invincible 20 years ago either. But at least back then I wasn’t expected to realize that.

Last week I strained my back—that’s where this is stemming from. It wasn’t too terrible—I could still walk and drive, I wasn’t confined to the sofa—but I was debilitated. I couldn’t pick up my son, or the cat fur I saw on the floor. Worse, I couldn’t work out. It was highly frustrating. I felt like I could see my body changing before my eyes, and then realized it had only been 2 days since I’d last exercised.

The very first thing I did when it happened was some light but consistent (hourly) stretching so my back wouldn’t just stiffen up. Getting into the stretches hurt a bit, but the stretches themselves felt wonderful. I used a cold pack and tried to lie still a while. Then I went to see an RN who’s also a personal trainer. She said, “You know why they sent you to me? Because I’m going to tell you to take the advice you give your clients every single day!” I really don’t know why I paid for the visit. I dish it out all the time:
1. Rest and ice. Just for a couple of days! Come on!
2. Ibuprofen for the inflammation—regular doses, don’t be afraid to take the meds.
3. Stretch, stretch, stretch! One yoga class a week will not suffice!
4. Vary your workouts. Too much of any one thing will almost certainly result in injury of some variety.

Just days before my strain I had been noting to myself that I had been doing almost exclusively high-impact exercise of late. My schedule has been keeping me from my usual lower-impact choices, like spinning, and we’ve been doing lots and lots of extra walking with this beautiful weather—to the point that my feet have been hurting a little. So I actually rode the bike at the gym one day—something I never do because I think it’s boring, and used the elliptical-style machine—ditto about the boring—and then, bang! The next day I bent over and my muscle spasmed and my body said, “too little too late.”

I am so grateful that my injury wasn’t as bad as I know some back injuries can be. Three days after it happened I ran in a neighborhood race. I attribute my quick recovery to all the work I do to stay strong in my legs and my core—they came to my rescue! And I took this surprise pain as a clear sign that I need to start treating my body with even more care. I don’t plan to ease up on my workouts, but I absolutely need to balance the running with the spinning and swimming and strength work, laying off from all the pounding of running to challenge my body in other ways to give my back a break. I think I’ll also take this as a sign that it’s time to start getting regular massages!

I’m an active person, always have been, and sharing the passion is what I live for. But that doesn’t mean I’m above routine aches and pains. It’s time to admit that I’m only human, and that while exercise fixes most body issues, it can also cause some—if we’re not careful.

Are You Brave Enough to Be a B Student?

My right quad is a little trembly but I’m holding my triangle pose patiently as my yoga teacher takes a moment to adjust a new person in class. I take my eyes off myself in the mirror for just a second, glance around the room at some other nearby triangle poses. It’s funny—I’m impressed, but it’s not the poses of the seasoned yogis that catch my eye. What I like to see is someone who knows when to hold back.

It is in our nature to want to please the teacher, or at least follow the herd, and by this I am referring to all those times when the instructor says, “Don’t continue to the next part of the exercise until your body is ready for it,” yet five people who are clearly not ready for it continue on anyway because everyone else is doing it. The person who impresses me, who I want to send a secret smile, is the one who doesn’t move on past her current level—who is working very hard at the level she is now, and knows that when she is ready, she’ll know it, and will try to move forward then.

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This is a digression but I promise it will make sense in a minute: I am so into Neil deGrasse Tyson right now—the brilliant and multitalented astrophysicist who is hosting the new series “Cosmos.” I like him because he’s smart and passionate about his interests, but I really like his insights into how to be a better person. For example, he says to teachers: Don’t take credit for your straight-A students—straight-A students were going to get all As with or without you. But if you have a B student and lifted him up to an A student, then you can be proud of that accomplishment. In other words, pay closer attention to those B and C students, because they need encouragement where the A kids already have it.

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If you’re a “B student” in your weight-lifting class, hold your teacher’s attention by trying your hardest as the B student you are. Let those heavy-lifting, perfect-form A students do their thing—admire only long enough to know that it’s in your power to get there, too, with hard work and consistent progress. But a good teacher will see your efforts, and encourage with gentle tips, or nudges to push harder when you might otherwise be nervous. Be proud to be a B student, determined and working at the level appropriate for you. It’s safer, it’s likely to pay off, and it’s impressive.

#47 Benched

Should you work out when you’re injured?

Feel like you’re benched because you pulled a muscle? Don’t be so quick to let yourself off the hook. You can get in an excellent workout despite your injury, and without causing further pain.

Say you pull a muscle in your leg so you call off your run for the next day. Sure. Of course. But if you have a training session scheduled for two days later, there’s no need to cancel your appointment. A good trainer will be able to work around your injury, and give you an excellent workout that will make you question why you ever considered canceling.

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