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Leave It To Your Body

65017_311600488944738_362041646_nI recently read an eye-opening article about how our bodies react when dealing with an injury. The human body is fascinating – I think sometimes we forget the intricacies and natural healing properties within us.

More and more avid exercisers are getting injured – the most common being the knee or back. Much of this stems from the wrong form during a movement or is the result of too much repetitious pounding from explosive movements. Whatever the cause, if you are someone who works out religiously every week, an injury can be extremely challenging mentally and physically.

Naturally, once you get injured immediate questions come into your head:

  • Can I continue to eat normally without exercising?
  • Will I gain weight?
  • Should I be taking supplements?
  • Is there quicker way to heal?

Here’s what I learned:

  • Maintain a healthy intake. Rather than waiting to shape up your diet after an injury – strive to maintain a high-quality food intake every day to bank up on vitamins and minerals that your body needs to repair if you were to get injured (or during daily muscle repairs after micro tears when training). You will heal quicker by replenishing your body with nutrient-rich foods).
  • Good nutrition enhances recovery. To enhance healing, maintain a healthy combination of food groups – proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits. Proteins are critical during healing. They digest into amino acids needed to repair damaged muscles. Ensure you incorporate 20-30 grams of protein at each meal or snack. And eliminate processed foods.
  • You need to eat when injured. Many athletes decide they are going to starve themselves to cut back on the calories they are no longer burning off at the gym. In actuality, our bodies need fuel to repair. You just have to eat mindfully. You might have to cut back on your servings if you are no longer torching a lot of calories when working out. Eat enough to fuel your body at your current activity level.
  • Our organs burn the majority of calories in our body – not our muscles (although they do a nice job too). “Organs are metabolically active and require a lot of fuel”, says Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD. “About 2/3 of the calories consumed by the average active person support the resting metabolic rate” (energy needed just to exist).
  • Surgery or trauma requires an additional 10-20% more calories for your body to function. Your body responds naturally to hunger cues. So, eat when hungry and stop when your stomach is full.
  • Muscle does not turn into fat. Muscle atrophies. Our bodies have muscle memory – once we go back to our normal routine, the muscle rebuilds quickly.
  • Our bodies also have a “genetic” weight. If we are underweight, our body will try to adjust to the intended size and natural physique.

If you are injured, don’t panic. Your body has your back, literally. You will recover, and in most cases, often stronger than before your injury.

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Go Figure

Leg-Lift-on-BOSU-BallIt’s been a couple of months since I have truly had a good workout post my knee debacle. My biggest concern was what would happen to all that hard work and results I had achieved with my hard core fitness routine?

My schedule went from 5-6 days/week of working out to 2-3 days of PT only. Although both intense, not the same.

I have, once again, become my own science experiment.

So what changed? I slowed down and focused on my form and strengthening specific muscles through contraction and concentrated movements. And my body is just as strong, if not stronger, than pre-surgery.  I actually believe my physique has improved. I’m not saying my cardio has not completed suffered – that is one area I will need to rebuild and is a priority for me going forward; but, I didn’t gain weight, I didn’t lose muscle tone and I didn’t stop eating.

This only confirms what I have learned:

Form Is Everything.
In PT, most of your efforts are based on slow, methodical movements – contracting and building muscle, strengthening and focus. Something I was never a big fan of…moving slow.

Evidence continues to support that form is the utmost important. Without proper form, you will overcompensate with the wrong muscles and support systems. I knew this already – as I am sure most of you have experienced first-hand – without proper form, you are not getting the maximum benefit of the movement (not seeing results) and you are more prone to injury.

One of my major pet peeves throughout the years attending fitness classes was watching most of the class trying so hard to keep up and complete the routine by sacrificing form. Without proper form and movement (“just getting through it”) they were only getting a fraction of the benefit of the workout. Proper form is always more important than speed and is the key to training successfully. Maximum muscle contraction is critical in seeing effects.

I even find myself on the days I don’t have PT, standing a little taller, contracting my body a little tighter and overall, being aware of my movement.

Rest
We have written previous posts about the importance of resting your body: (http://heelstolaces.com/give-rest/).

The body needs time to repair and strengthen. Continuous training can actually weaken the strongest athlete. During recovery, the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place – meaning, this is where you build muscle. In addition, rest helps maintain a better balance between home, work & fitness goals (and healing ACL’s ;-).

Changin’ It Up
Your body can very easily get used to the same routine every week and become very efficient. This adaptation (we’ve used this term in previous blogs!) causes you to burn fewer calories, even when you’re doing the same amount of exercise. The solution is to challenge your body in new ways. Your body will have to work harder as it adjusts to the new activity, which means that you’ll burn more calories when you work out.

So, there you have it. The combination of focused form, rest and change in my workout has truly had a beneficial effect on my body. And surprisingly, had the reverse reaction than what I expected.

 

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Back To Basics

Back To The Basics

In my role as a fitness instructor/trainer, one of the first questions I am asked is “How do I get fitter? My body is not changing and I work out all the time.”

There are several things that lead to optimal training: how many times you exercise per week, how intense you exercise and what types of exercise you perform (and of course, your diet – but we’ll cover that in another blog entry).

The Principle of Overload says that to reach a desired training improvement, you have to perform at a level higher than what you are currently doing.  Often, we get so comfortable in our fitness routine, we are no longer challenging ourselves or getting out of our comfort zone (note our recent blog entry: Mind Over Matter).

By performing at a higher level (ie. heavier weights, different type of workout, anaerobic workout), your body responds to this new stress by adapting to the increase in capacity. Fitness programs that lack overload or variation will help you maintain your current level, but not improve it.

The Principle of Progression states that for continued improvement in your fitness level, you have to continually challenge yourself over time. This means gradual increases in the frequency, intensity and type of exercise you perform without increasing your risk of injury. The length of improvement will vary depending on age, current fitness level and physical limitations.

Principle of Specificity is the key to progression! It says that your body will adapt to the demands put on it. For example, you want to run your first marathon, but you’ve never run more than 3 miles. The more you train – the longer you can run, the more miles you cover, the more your body adapts to what you are asking of it (over a gradual period of time). The changes you are making are specific to that activity. So, focus on one new activity at a time to maximize your results.

So let’s recap. To see different results, you have to challenge yourself. Pick a new workout routine…or try a different fitness program. Stay consistent in your gradual increases and push yourself. Don’t just go through the movements – get out of your comfort zone. You will start to see results.

Should You Rest?
Short answer – YES! Your body needs time to recover and your musculoskeletal system needs to rebuild from vigorous exercise (note our blog entry “Give It A Rest“). You can cause more damage than good if you do not let your body rest. Overtraining can also occur when you try to increase your intensity too quickly. In both scenarios, you are more prone to injury and will not optimize the increase in your fitness level.

I always try to incorporate at least 2 days of rest into my week (no high-intensity workouts – more leisure activities).

What If I Stop Exercising?
So, now that you know how to progress your fitness level, on the other end of the spectrum, what happens if you stop for a designated length of time?  If your training is discontinued or decreased, de-training occurs. Cardio-respiratory fitness levels decrease after only 2-3 weeks without training. Muscular fitness (strength/endurance) will decrease in 2-3 months without training. Note to self: don’t stop by choice. Objects in rest tend to stay in rest. Objects in motion, stay in motion.

Have specific questions for your fitness training? Email us. We are here to help: info@heelstolaces.com

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