Exercise Injuries: Too Much, Too Soon
the Right Equipment
Don't expect tennis shoes you¡ve
had for 3 years to cushion the shock of whatever impact sport
you want to do now. Invest in high-quality, well-fitting shoes,
clothes, and gear. If you are a runner, for example, a variety
of shoe styles and orthotics (custom-made shoe inserts) are available
for specific problems, such as flat feet, high arches, or a susceptibility
to particular injuries.
The best fitness programs combine
three types of exercise: cardiovascular (aerobic), weight training,
and flexibility work.
- Cardiovascular workouts increase energy and stamina, help control
blood pressure, improve cholesterol and burn calories. Aerobic
exercises can be high-impact (jogging, step aerobics) or weight-supported
(rowing, cycling). To lessen your chance of injury when doing
high-impact exercise, avoid the most unforgiving of surfaces,
cement, and run on cinder, grass, dirt, and even asphalt.
- Weight training develops strength and balance. Free
weights, exercise machines, stretch bands, and calisthenics all
build strength. Dr. Deborah Saint-Phard of the Women¡s
Sports Medicine Center emphasizes the need for strength training.
"A one-hundred-twenty-five-pound woman running a ten «K¡
absorbs several tons of force. Running is seven times your body
weight each time you put your foot down! The only things protecting
your skeleton are the muscles around your bones; they act as
shock absorbers. The stronger a muscle, the more endurance it
- Flexibility work helps prevent injury during exercise
and promotes healing from injury. It can also reduce low back
pain. Yoga, martial arts, stretching, and dance develop flexible
Do all three exercise types
and you'll be less vulnerable to the gradual breakdown of a body
structure that can lead to serious overuse injury, such as stress
fractures, chronic knee or ankle pain, and sprains and strains.
The bodies of both new and aging
exercisers can gradually adapt to progressively demanding programs
involving aerobics, weight training, and flexibility work, but,
as Saint-Phard points out, you not only need to build up gradually,
you need to warm up properly before each session. A good warm-up,
with plenty of stretching, increases blood flow to your muscles
and maximizes their flexibility. Warm-downs, with stretching,
are also important.
If you decide to make gym workouts
a part of your program and are a newcomer to gym routines and
equipment, it is crucial that you receive proper instruction
from a certified trainer. Also, if you take aerobics or yoga
classes, use common sense. As Stuhr puts it, "Work within
your limitsÂgive yourself permission to back off. Catch
up with the group on the next movement, or at the next class."
The Center advocates cross-training.
Different types of exercise put stress on different muscle groups,
and Saint-Phard suggests that you vary your activities, which
gives specific muscles a chance to rest before being stressed
again. "Rollerblade one day, play tennis the next. This
is the healthiest way to attain your fitness goals."
Finally, tailor your program
to your goals. For example, is your primary goal to lose weight?
Cardiovascular exercise raises metabolism (temporarily) and also
requires relatively more energy than flexibility training, so
you burn more calories more effectively. If you want to lose
weight, do 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
4 or 5 days a week and combine it with strength training, which
helps takes off weight by building metabolically active muscle
To prevent overuse injury in
any activity, be sure you have:
- Enough flexibility.
- Adequate strength.
- The right equipment.
- Proper technique.
- Sufficient warm-up and cool-down.
Remember, your body can't do
at 40 or 50 what it did at 20. Make your motto "Train smarter,
not harder" and you won't be sidelined by doing too much,