We have all heard the phrase “no pain, no gain”, and the only time this applies is when you experience the delayed muscle soreness a day or two after a workout.
There are many things can land you on your fanny, cuddling an ice pack, and popping an anti-inflammatory. The mind is cruising full speed ahead, but the body has a blowout. Let’s look at ways to keep you in the game.
A little knowledge of the body and applied common sense can be all you need to keep yourself strong and healthy.
Muscle soreness you feel a day or two after a new activity is normal, and is actually muscle damage. The body repairs this damage, stronger than it was before. If you experience pain during or immediately after an activity, common sense should guide you.
Only you can determine if the discomfort is from muscles working in a way they are not accustomed, or if the body is screaming, “Ouch, stop!” Listen to your body, as it can be much smarter than you are.
To avoid being put on the sidelines, here are few things to keep in mind:
Warm up. This could be the most important but often the most ignored. A warm up means you have started to sweat and you can feel the blood flowing in your muscles.
Start slow. Jumping into an activity that your body has not recently experienced greatly increases you chance of injury because the tissues of the body are weak in the beginning. Play your newly started activity at 75% the first few times, allowing your body to adapt before going 100%.
Specificity of training. Just because you have been running does not mean you can jump onto a mountain bike without risk. The stresses, to the low back for instance, are different. The more specific your training is to the activity at hand, the better.
Variety. Also known as cross training. Perform a variety of exercises or activities and this prepares your body for all sorts of stress to the body. If you are a swimmer, your ankles and knees are not used to the lateral movement of a soccer game. Make sense? Mix it up.
Stretch. The jury is out on the benefits of stretching. It generally will not be detrimental, unless you need joint stability in your sport. The casual stretches you see many doing have very limited benefit. To truly lengthen a tissue requires a dedicated, and often uncomfortable effort. Stretching is most effective after an activity when the muscles are warm.
Listen to your body. Men are the worst, but women are guilty too. Your body will tell you when something is wrong; your job is to listen. More often than not, you will lose the battle if you try to “work through” the pain. Back off and try again another day. You will return stronger.
And to all the weekend warriors who fail to adhere to my advice remember RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression (Ace wrap), and Elevation of the injured body part. Inflammation chokes out the blood supply and the nutrients it provides, so heat, which increases blood flow, is not applied to an injury until the inflammation is gone, usually a few days.
And if you do need ice, here’s my super duper recipe for the most effective ice pack ever (and no, the bag of frozen peas will not work!):
HOMEMADE ICE PACK
1 bottle rubbing alcohol
2 bottles water
Pour into a gallon size zip-lock bag and place that bag inside of another to prevent leakage.
Will be a firm slushy consistency.
Place wet towel between skin and ice pack. Hold firmly with body weight, Ace bandage, or the like.
Keep ice on 15-25 minutes OR until numb. And be careful–this is really effective but really cold.