Archive for the tag - injury

Is It Okay to Run with Sore Legs?

Dear Davey,

I’ve started a new lower body workout, and it leaves me sore for a few days thereafter. I know you’re not suppose to strength train muscles that are still sore, but is it okay to run with sore legs?

From,
Matthew

Well, there are a few points that need to be made here.

First, there are two types of soreness. There’s delayed onset muscle soreness (called DOMS) which occurs 12-48 hours after you complete your workout. It’s normal to experience DOMS – especially when you start a new workout regimen.

The other, less-desirable type of soreness occurs immediately and is often asymmetrical (i.e., it occurs only in one leg or one hamstring), and it’s most-often injury related. If your soreness is injury related, then you need to avoid using the injured muscle until you’ve recovered.

If you’re experiencing a low-level of DOMS in your legs, it may be okay to do some cardiovascular training. Ensure that you do a warm-up and proper stretch before engaging in your cardio. If the soreness or discomfort increases during your cardio, then you should stop immediately – as the increased pain may be indicative of an injury.

Keep in mind that DOMS typically fades within a month or two of a new routine, so you probably won’t be dealing with issue long-term. As you become more accustomed to your routine, the soreness will dissipate in subsequent workouts. And remember: Soreness isn’t required for muscle growth.

The bottom line: If you’re experiencing a slight amount of DOMS, then it’s okay to engage in cardio so long as it doesn’t exacerbate the soreness. If your soreness is injury related, avoid cardio until you’ve healed.

How to Heal a Pulled / Torn Hamstring.

Just over six weeks ago, I had a vision. My Pilates instructor and I were discussing goals, and I immediately imagined myself flexible and limber enough to do a full straddle split. While I thought this flexibility would be particularly beneficial in the bedroom, it would also help my running performance and gymnastics.

And so I became a man on a mission – and worked tirelessly to stretch my tightened leg muscles. On one such occasion, I held a deep straddle stretch and timed it for five minutes. By the end, my brow was dripping in sweat and I knew that I had pushed myself. Perhaps, a little too far.

Muscles stretch best when warmed up, and so I always do cardio before any sort of static stretching. In this instance, however, my warm-up wasn’t enough and my stretch was too deep – and it soon became clear that my hamstring muscle was pulled.

First, I’m not a doctor – and so I’m not in the business of giving medical advice. I will share, however, how I was able to treat my pulled muscle using a popular method called R.I.C.E. It includes rest, ice, compression and elevation. I’d also add a “P” to the acronym, short for patience, and thus advise the “P.R.I.C.E.” method.

  1. Patience. I am six weeks into my pulled hamstring recovery, and I’m still not fully healed. It takes time. Lots of it. You must have patience with your body or else you’re going to experience a great deal of frustration.
  2. Rest. As an avid runner, having to skip cardio or leg workouts felt like a prison sentence. However, continual strain causes increased inflammation – and increase recovery time. You should rest until the pain is gone – and know that this may take many, many weeks.
  3. Ice. Icing an injury for 15 minutes, several times a day, is a great way to reduce inflammation. Go the the pharmacy and get yourself a decent, reusable ice pack. Wrap it in a paper towel and apply the ice pack to the injured area.
  4. Compression. An elastic bandage or tape can reduce the swelling that results from the inflammatory process.
  5. Elevation. Elevating your leg both aids in the waste removal process and decreases inflammation.

Of the five, I believe that patience and rest are paramount. They’re also the most difficult. I keep finding myself thinking, “Oh, a little run couldn’t hurt.” But in reality, you’re likely to just further extend and already long recovery time. Give your body time to repair, rebuild and recover.

Within another week or two, after missing nearly two months of cardio, I’ll be getting back into the game. I’ll enjoy working back up to my previous abilities… just don’t expect a split anytime soon. 😛

Have you ever suffered from a pulled hamstring? Let me know about it in the comments below. How did you recover?

Bench Press with Legs Up: What’s the Deal?

Dear Davey,

I’ve seen a lot of guys at the gym bending their knees or raising their legs in some way while they bench press. What’s that about? What are the benefits?

From,
Mitch

Hey Mitch,

Like anyone who has spent some time in a free weight room, you’ve seen individuals perform the bench press (or similar chest exercises) with their feet up on the bench or in the air. It’s fairly common.

However, I’d advise against it.

I’ve talked to a number of people that perform the bench press with their legs elevated and they usually do it because they believe they’re challenging their muscles more and/or they have lower back pain and it makes the exercise more comfortable. Unfortunately, lifting your legs makes the exercise unsafe. Consider the lack of balance and risk of injury when pressing heavier weights. And when it comes to challenging your muscles, there are better ways to train for gains.

To bench press properly, you should create a wide base by spreading your feet apart. Your knees should be above your feet and most of your weight should be driving into your heels. While the bench press is a chest exercise, much of the weight is supported by your legs – and by pushing through your legs and into your heels, you can help drive the weight up. Doing this will enable you to move more weight (vs. a legs elevated position), so I’d make the argument that the traditional bench press position is both safer and more effective.

If you are looking for alternatives and variety, consider drop sets, incline or decline benches, negative sets, grip variations or adjusting your rest time.

Love,
Davey

Myth: No Pain, No Gain.

"No pain, no gain" is a recipe for both injuries and unpleasant workouts.

Let’s change the way we look at exercise.

“No pain, no gain.” It’s probably the most quoted fitness proverb ever. It’s plastered on the wall of many gyms and instilled in the mindsets of most of us.

The quote has been credited to everyone from the poet Robbert Herrick to Ben Franklin, but it was brought into mainstream popularity by Jane Fonda during the early 1980s. In her workout videos, Fonda used the quote as catchphrase to encourage participants to work through the burn.

Today, “no pain, no gain” is a mantra for many gym enthusiasts. But here’s the thing: It’s not true – and it’s a dangerous mentality.

If you truly experience pain during exercise (and not the “burn” to which Jane Fonda was actually referring), then you should stop immediately.

There are two basic types of pain or soreness that exercisers experience. Injury-related soreness is what you’d feel during or immediately following an exercise. Obviously, this type of pain is something that will not result in any fitness gains – and could prove to be debilitating. If you work through the pain (as the adage might imply), you may exacerbate the scope of the injury. Delayed onset muscle soreness (called DOMS), on the other hand, is what you’d experience 12-48 hours after working out. It’s a good thing; it means your body is engaged in a process that will result in muscle gains or increased strength.

If you hold the idea that “pain” is a necessary ingredient in becoming physically fit, you’re selling yourself short; this notion paints exercise as an unpleasant experience. And if you are nodding your head in agreement, than you, too, have been fooled. There are a million creative ways to incorporate exercise into your life that are fun, enjoyable and yes, painless. Hiking, biking, swimming, skiing, kayaking, rock climbing, ice skating and trampolining immediately come to mind. In fact, I even enjoy going to the gym, running and lifting – the exercises have a meditative quality for me. I look forward to my workouts.

I think it’s time to retire this adage of “no pain, no gain” from the collective human physique. It’s a dangerous idea that sets us up for injury – and, indeed, you can achieve your fitness goals while enjoying yourself and your exercise routine.

Here’s to gains without pain.

What is Osteopathy?

When Luc Vaillancourt, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner, invited me in for an osteopathy session at Toronto’s Inspired Life Health Care Center, my first reaction was to Google “osteopathy.”

So what is osteopathy? According to Luc:

Osteopathy is a manual medicine, using soft manipulations and techniques to re-balance the body… Osteopathy believes that a well balanced body has the inherent capacity of healing itself. If the blood flows freely and nourishes the cells with new oxygen and nutriments, it helps clean the body of dead cells, the nerves work properly, muscles are used at their maximum capability, etc.

I was curious, and took up Luc on his offer. Being in very good health, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to gain anything from the visit. I was wrong.

Luc used a number of techniques to manipulate my body. None of them were painful, and it was actually quite relaxing. Most interestingly, I learned that I have a very slight spinal curvature, known as scoliosis. It’s a very mild case of scoliosis, but something of which I was entirely unaware. Moreover, Luc shared that I have flat feet, and that my right leg is slightly longer than the left. Who knew? Turns out, the shortness of my left leg isn’t structural – it’s simply because of muscle tightness. Luc was able to use a series of very deep stretches and manipulations to return my left leg to its proper length.

So what’s the big deal about a slightly shorter leg? As a runner, I’m on my feet a lot. And although a slightly shorter leg might seem trivial, years of running with uneven impact could translate to an injury down the road. In my case, a visit to the osteopath – and the lengthening of my shortened leg – may have helped prevent that future injury.

Though many of Luc’s patients have existing conditions, he recommends that everyone pays a visit to their local osteopath. “You bring your car in for a tune up,” Luc says, “And you should do the same with your body.” Osteopath visits are sometimes covered by more progressive insurance plans, and generally run from $75 – $150 for a one-hour session.

Have you ever been to osteopath? Let me know about your experience in the comments below!

How to: Training to Avoid Back Injuries Down the Road.

Bad backs and related injuries can be absolutely debilitating. They can translate to time out of work, sleepless nights and chronic pain. So it’s no wonder that people are very weary when it comes to their backs and exercise.

The reality is, the best way to prevent debilitating back injuries down the road is to train regularly. If you go to the gym sporadically – on and off, or just on the weekends – then you’re more likely to experience back problems than a regular gym-goer.

Because so many people fear future back problems, there’s a tendency to skip back workouts. Ironically, it’s one of the worst things you can do. Using weights and machine to train your core, back and lower back is hugely beneficial in preventing back problems – or aiding in a faster recovery. It has been proven that muscular development leads to shorter recovery times if back surgery becomes necessary.

In addition to muscular development, lengthening tight muscles through stretching also helps prevent back injury; spend a few minutes stretching after each workout.

And last but not least, allow for proper recovery times. Just like any muscle group, if your back muscles are sore from a previous workout, don’t exercise them again until they recover! Exercising an already weakened muscle is a recipe for injury.

Bottom line: To prevent back injuries down the road engage in a comprehensive strength training program that includes core, back and lower back exercises, stretch at the end of your workouts and allow for muscle recovery.