Getting Back into Exercise Safely

Are you anxious to getting back to the gym? Or are you finding yourself not as active due to spending more time at home during these unprecedented times? Most of us are feeling sluggish and want to begin exercising or jump right back into the gym. However, the gyms are still closed until the end of the month and we have a great opportunity to possibly start, get back to, or progress a lasting workout routine at home. We also know starting where we left off two months ago can result in injury, so it is best to start now with a small routine to get back to your previous level of exercise before the gyms open up again!

Exercise is GOOD for us:

Physical activity has numerous health benefits, both mentally and physically. Benefits include improving muscular strength/endurance, decreasing blood pressure, and reducing stress and anxiety. There is a great sense of accomplishment when you reach a new fitness goal or can perform activities you couldn’t before.

Every journey starts with a single step:

Try not to get overwhelmed. Getting back into exercising or even beginning a workout regimen doesn’t need to be difficult, scary, or overwhelming. Start small and start easy. If you start with light weight or a shorter walk and it goes great, WOOT WOOT, then don’t be afraid to increase a little. Emphasis on a little! For example, if you start walking for 10 minutes and do that for a few days then try increasing that time by 5 minutes and continuing with this progression at a gradual rate. Before you know, you may find yourself walking for 30 minutes with ease! This goes for weight progression as well. Start with no weight while performing exercises, focusing on proper form. Once your form is good then try adding light weights. You may progress to a heavier weight when you feel you can complete 3 sets of 10 of an exercise with no difficulty and maintain proper form.

If you are someone who was exercising before and are trying to get back into your routine make sure you ease yourself in, do a percentage of that activity and work up to your previous level of activity slowly. For example, if before quarantine you were running 3 miles, start with running 1 or 1 ½ miles. If this is tolerated well for one week you start progressing ¼ mile each week until back to 3 miles. The human body is amazing in how it can change, but it doesn’t like to do it in a day. The way to avoid overuse aches, pains, and injuries is to slowly work up to more and more intense activities.

If you are just starting to get into exercising or have decreased balance, then you can still get a good workout in! Exercises performed in a chair are a great way to get moving and stay safe at the same time. If you start to feel like chair exercises are easy, progress to performing standing exercises at a counter, in order to hang on for balance.

Keep in mind, as you begin to exercise you may experience some muscle soreness. This is ok and normal, but it should not last more than a few days. If it is, then try decreasing weights, distance, sets or reps of an exercise, as you may be over doing it. A good way to prevent overuse of a muscle group is to work different areas of your body on different days. Split up which days you perform arm exercises and leg exercises. And you only have to begin with 20-30 minutes a day to get back into a routine!

No matter what type of exercise you are performing, a good way to gauge intensity level is with an RPE (Rated Perceived Exertion) scale. The RPE scale ranges from 1-10, with 1 being light level activity and 10 being max level activity. For most cases, when you are exercising you should be in the 3-4 range (moderate level range) of activity level. You may also use this scale to gauge progression with activities. If you are performing an exercise and feel like it’s a 2 in terms of intensity, then maybe it is time to increase the distance you are running or weights you are using to get yourself back up to that 3-4 range.

Where to Start and How Much should you start with?

Ideally you want to perform 3 sets of 10 of an exercise, 3-5 days a week. As you are starting out you may need to perform fewer sets and repetitions of each exercise or take rest breaks throughout and that is ok! As long as you are performing these exercises with proper form and maintaining pain free movements you are doing great! It is always important to remember to start out at a level of activity that you are comfortable with.

When it comes to walking or running, it depends on your previous level of exercise. If you have not done any walking or running in months or even years, then start with 10 min a day until you can do it without soreness and shortness of breath. Then increase 5 min every few days as your body allows. If you were a runner before, then start at a quarter or a third of what you were doing before stopping. Here a few running and walking charts we have found are good for beginners and those trying to work back into a long running program. As always, you can adjust a day based on how you are feeling. And make sure you stay hydrated!

You can do the walking challenge if you have never ran and want to start off slow! You can also make the 30-day walking challenge into running if you had been running shorter distances and need to start slow again! The second chart is for runners who are more trained but need a way to ease into things at a higher level. Remember, you can increase or decrease each day based on what you can tolerate!

In addition, It is important to incorporate a warmup into your exercise routine to prevent injury. The purpose of a warmup is to gradually increase your heart rate and get your muscles stretched in preparation for physical activity. Some examples of warmups are a short walk, jumping jacks, or arm circles. Once your heart rate is increased it is important to stretch the muscles that you are going to work out. Examples of common muscle groups in your legs to stretch are your hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps. Arm and neck stretches may include biceps, triceps, pecs (chest), upper traps, and levator muscles. These stretches can all be found on our website! Once you’ve completed your warmup and stretches you are ready to exercise!

If you are someone who is interested in getting back to exercising again safely, but are having any pain, difficulty or discomfort while doing so, then stop and consult with your Doctor or a physical therapist. A physical therapist will perform an evaluation and assess your body movement, flexibility, strength, balance and endurance. Based on the findings, we will work with you to create a customized exercise program that will help you reach your goals. Along with an exercise program, various manual techniques, such as soft tissue massage, Astym (tissue regeneration using various tools), mobilizations and manual stretching may be utilized to further improve your rehabilitation.

Let’s get off the couch and get started!

Stretches & Exercises to Help Prevent Injuries From Walking & Running

Yesterday we posted about some of the most common injuries you can experience from running and walking. Today, we wanted to post some stretches and exercises to help prevent those injuries.

Stretches:

All of these Stretches can be performed before and after your workout, and wherever you are running/walking. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 2x each.

Bottle Roll (for relief of Plantar Fasciitis):

Use a frozen water bottle (plastic, no glass).  In sitting or standing roll the bottom of your foot with moderate pressure. Use as much pressure as you can tolerate without discomfort.

Standing Calf/Achilles Stretch:

Start by standing in front of a wall or other sturdy object. Step forward with one foot and maintain your toes on both feet to be pointed straight forward. Keep the leg behind you with a straight knee during the stretch.

Lean forward towards the wall and support yourself with your arms as you allow your front knee to bend until a gentle stretch is felt along the back of your leg that is most behind you.

Move closer or further away from the wall to control the stretch of the back leg. Also you can adjust the bend of the front knee to control the stretch as well.

Repeat with back knee  bent to get an Achilles stretch (Soleus Stretch).

Sitting Hamstring Stretch:

While sitting with your leg stretched out, reach forward with your hands towards touching your toes.

Standing IT band stretch:

In a standing position, cross the affected leg behind your unaffected leg.

Next, with your arm over head, lean to the side towards the unaffected leg.

Standing Quad stretch:

While in a standing position, bend your knee back behind and hold your ankle/foot.

Next, gently pull your knee into a more bent position until a stretch is felt on the front of the thigh.

Exercises:

These exercises consist of hip and leg strengthening exercises to help prevent injury with running or walking. Do each exercise 3 x 10 reps for each side

Clams:

Lie on your side, knees bent. With feet planted together, open and close your knees.

Lateral Leg Raises:

Lie on your side, propped up on one elbow. With your bottom leg bent, slowly raise your straight top leg, being careful not to let your toes point up as you raise the leg. Lower slowly back to your start position.

Fire Hydrants:

In all fours position, raise your bent leg up to the side, and back again. This exercise got it’s name because it mimics a dog peeing on a fire hydrant. 🙂

Hip Extension:

In all fours position raise your leg up behind you as shown. Keep your knee bent at 90 degrees the entire time.

Wall Sit Squats:

Slowly lower to the wall sit/squat position of knees at 90 degrees to the floor, not letting your knees go over your toes, then back to standing.

Heel Raises:

While standing, raise up on your toes as you lift your heels off the ground. This can also be done on a step where your toes are on the edge of the step and you raise up as high as you can then slowly lower back down letting the heel hang just below the step.

 

Photo Credit: www.hep2go.com 

Common Walking & Running Injuries

With the weather finally getting warmer, the will to get outside to start exercising is getting stronger. With that being said, it is important to remember how to prevent possible injuries that are associated with running or walking.
Some of the most common injuries are Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, Shin splints, Runner’s knee, IT Band syndrome, and Hamstring strains.

Plantar Fasciitis

Common Causes:
• Inflammation of tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to toes, causing pain along the arch or heel
• Very high or very low arches
• The way your foot lands when you run, too far in or too far out
• Standing for a long time period
• Worn out shoes

Prevention Tips:
• Stretch & massage your arches. A golf ball works well as a massage ball, or foot rollers can help as well. A frozen bottle of water works perfectly as a foot roller and decreases the inflammation at the same time.
• Wear properly fitted running shoes

Achilles Tendonitis

Common Causes:
• Irritation or tightness in the Achilles tendon that connects your calf and heel
• A sudden increase in hill training or speed work
• Weak calf muscles
• Worn out shoes

Prevention Tips:
• Strengthen your calf muscles
• Stretch your calves gently
• Increase flexibility in your ankle
• Avoid wearing high heels or flat shoes like flip flops for a long time

Shin splints

Common Causes:
• Inflammation of the muscles and tendons around the front part of the lower leg
• Running on tired legs so the tendons are forced to take the strain
• Increasing mileage, too much too soon
• Running too long or too much on hard surfaces when your body isn’t accustomed to it
• Brand new shoes or worn out shoes

Prevention Tips:
• Gradually increase your mileage
• Wear shoes that are fit for your feet and that aren’t worn out
• Improve the strength of your calves and muscles of your outer hip (hip abductor exercises)
• Stretch the front muscles of your lower leg and your calf muscles

Runner’s knee/ Knee pain

An aching pain behind or just above the kneecap. It also might feel tender to the touch, almost like a bruise. The cause of the pain is the patella (kneecap) rubbing against the head of the femur.

Common Causes:
• Inflammation and irritation of the cartilage under the kneecap
• Weak quadriceps muscles
• Tight hamstrings and IT band
• Running or walking on hills or stairs that you haven’t worked up to
• Long runs or walks that your body isn’t prepared for
• Wearing shoes that are worn out

Prevention Tips:
• Strengthen your leg muscles, in particular with quad strengthening exercises and hip strengthening exercises
• When you’re running, land with your knees slightly bent to take the pressure off of the joints
• Stretch your hamstrings, IT Band, and quads

IT Band Syndrome

Common Causes:
• Irritation and inflammation of the iliotibial band that runs along the outer portion of your upper leg from the hip to the knee. The pain is typically felt on the outside of the knee
• Too much downhill running or walking that your body isn’t prepared for
• Increased mileage too much too soon
• Wearing shoes that are worn out

Prevention Tips:
• Stretches that focus on hip flexors and butt muscles
• Rolling on your IT band with a foam roller
• If you’re including speed work in your training plan, gradually incorporate it in small amounts
• Strengthen outer leg muscles

Hamstring Strain

Common causes:
• Weak hamstring muscles
• Your quadricep muscles and hamstring muscles aren’t balanced with each other – quads are significantly and disproportionately stronger than your hamstrings
• Hamstrings that are too tight

Prevention Tips:
• Strengthen your hamstrings and glutes
• Improve the flexibility of your hamstrings

 

Sources:

How to prevent common running injuries

Run It – A Workout for Runner’s Knee (plus 5 more workouts for running injuries!)