#323 Say No to Injuries!

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The body never lies.

Martha Graham

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Injuries: Just Say No

By Steve Edwards

One of the most frustrating scenarios we face is when we finally make that commitment to our health, begin to work out, and then find ourselves sidelined due to an injury. In this two-part series, we'll take a simple look at how to best avoid getting injured, and what to do should our precautions fail.

Lifting Weights, Back Injury, and Straining to Lift Weights

We'll all face an injury of some kind during our lifetimes. Accidents are unavoidable. But when you're exercising to improve your health, physical setbacks are more frustrating than normal. On the flip side, if you don't exercise, your body will age faster, break down quicker, and die younger. Looking at the big picture can help motivate you to Push Play. Nothing, however, can derail this motivation faster than a nagging injury. After all, you may only be exercising to make yourself feel better. And injuries make you feel worse. But before you resign yourself to the "what's the point?" attitude, read on. This week, we'll show you how to greatly reduce your chance of getting injured in the first place. Next week, we'll discuss how you can get back on your feet quickly when you do get injured.

Why we get injured

There are two types of injury: acute and chronic. An acute injury occurs when something overloads your system beyond its capacity to buffer it—like getting hit by a car or falling off your bike. A chronic injury is one that's created by overusing a body part until it breaks down.

Car AccidentAcute injuries can't be prevented. Nothing can prepare you for a car accident, unless you know how to construct a Batman suit. But you can prepare yourself to better fend off minor acute injuries. Exercise can fashion a somewhat natural Batman suit out of your body. It won't fend off a car, but it can prepare you to deal with adversity more efficiently.

Chronic injuries can almost always be avoided because overuse injuries are generally due to muscular imbalance and/or lack of proper range of motion. By properly training your body, muscles will be balanced, bones will be dense, and body parts will be supple. When you get this formula right, chronic injuries almost never happen.

Overworked LegBut doing this is easier said than done. Even top-flight athletes have trouble with keeping their bodies in balance. The reason is that it takes both dedication and discipline. Most of us just want to do whatever it is we find entertaining when we exercise. The little things that keep us injury free can be mundane. As boring as this may be, it's a lot more fun than being injured. Let's take a look at the basics to staying healthy.

Warming up

Warming up properly seems like a waste of time. Who hasn't, at one time or another, jumped right into an intensive workout like P90X® or Turbo Jam® and walked away unscathed? But if you want to remain uninjured, nothing stacks the odds in your favor as much as thoroughly warming up your body to get it ready for the rigors of exercise.

Warming UpAcute injuries aren't just accidents. Putting stress on a cold system can cause acute injury, even with resistance that you can normally handle easily. The reason is that when you're cold, your muscles are actually gel-like. As they warm up, they become more viscous, kind of like oil in your car engine. This process is called thixotropy. As you increase your heart rate, your core body temperature heats up. When this happens, your muscular viscosity decreases, and you become more supple and ready to handle the stresses of exercise.

A proper warm-up starts out slow and gradually increases in intensity. Once your blood is moving, easy, short stretches help elongate your muscles so that they're ready for the intense contractions that will happen later. Note that long, slow stretching should be avoided as part of the warm-up. The type of stretching that you do to increase your flexibility should be done post-exercise. Pre-exercise stretches should remain very low on the intensity scale. They serve only to loosen up the body to its current range-of-motion abilities, not to increase that range.

Cooling down

Cooling DownA good workout stresses your body. Your heart rate increases to near its maximum, and muscles are contracted at high speed. If you finish a hard workout and walk away without a cooldown, your body settles into a contracted state. When this happens, the damage incurred during the workout is exacerbated and your body can't recover well. A proper cooldown eases your heart rate and stretches out your muscle fibers. This begins the healing process and speeds up your recovery time.

A good cooldown consists of moving your body slower and slower, allowing your heart rate to drop. When it gets low—under 100 beats per minute—you should begin stretching out all of the muscles worked during the workout. It's best to start with easy ballistic stretches. These can be followed by slower, longer static stretches. If you want to do a full-blown stretching session with the aim of increasing your body's range of motion, this is a good time to do that.

Staying limber

As stated before, working out contracts your muscles. To stay in balance, you need to stretch them out. Failing to stretch out your muscles leaves their fiber strands knotted close together. Muscles in this state are very susceptible to overload and, hence, injury. Properly stretched muscle fibers have far more of a buffer zone than unstretched ones. They can take the same force loads more easily because they have more room to contract. Staying limber is a good way to avoid injury.

Rehab before you need it

RehabIf you've ever been to a physical therapist, you've probably been given exercises that help rebuild an injured area. These tend to be low-intensity movements that not only stress your prime mover muscles but also the smaller muscles that stabilize the larger ones. For some reason, exercise programs often leave out training these smaller muscles. This is bad because when one muscle group is built up more than another, your body becomes imbalanced. When you have a muscular imbalance, you are highly likely to become injured. This leads to a quandary for many of us. We can't go to a physical therapist before we're injured, yet if we don't, it's hard to know when we're out of muscular balance.

Fortunately, most modern exercise programs consider this. P90X, for example, has many different workouts that focus on both prime mover and stabilizer muscles. But it's still easy to become out of balance because life often throws us into situations where muscular imbalance is likely to happen. Sports, yard work, and even sitting at a computer typing and "mousing" can create imbalance. How to offset this can be complicated, but here are some ideas.

  1. Have an annual assessment from a physical therapist. They can put you through a series of exercises that can determine your muscular health. If they do find an imbalance, it can usually be cured with a few simple exercises.

  2. Remember those physical therapist visits. Whenever you get sent to a physical therapist, remember the exercises that you're given. Once you've injured an area, that area will always be susceptible to being reinjured. The exercises prescribed should be done, at least on occasion, for the rest of your life. If you have enough injuries (like me), your arsenal of rehab exercises begins to grow, and eventually, you'll know how to avoid all imbalances.

  3. Do yoga. It targets muscular balance more than any other type of exercise. Doing yoga for a day or so per week will keep your body both balanced and supple and greatly facilitate all other training. Try Yoga Booty Ballet® to satisfy your yoga needs.

  4. Total Body Solution™. Debbie Siebers and neurophysiologist Chad Waterbury have created a new DVD program featuring a series of assessments and drills to increase range of motion, help relieve pain, and prevent strain in commonly stressed areas like the shoulders, neck, core, lower back, and knees. Click here to learn more.

Next week, we'll discuss what to do when you do break down.

Yoga Booty Ballet is a registered trademark of Goddess in Training, Inc.

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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Thursday, September 11th, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Steve EdwardsIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Wellness: 5 Stretches to Do at Your Desk

By Andrea Pesce

Sitting at a desk for long periods of time can cause muscular tension. But you can prevent the buildup of stress in your muscles by taking a few minutes to stretch. Try these 5 easy exercises when you need to reenergize, or throughout the day to keep your muscles relaxed.

Working and Stretching

  1. Head tilt. Put your right hand on your left shoulder. Tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder. Hold for five seconds. Switch sides.

  2. Neck RollNeck roll. Roll your head to the right, down to the front, then left. Do this slowly and smoothly, in both directions.

  3. Shoulder circles. Make circles with your shoulders—up, back, and down. Switch directions. Do at least five circles in each direction.

  4. Side StretchesSide stretch. Stretch your arms to the right side, then clasp your hands overhead. Keep your head straight forward but lean your upper body to the right side. You should feel this down your left side. Hold for five seconds. Switch sides.

  5. Back release. Sit at the edge of your chair as tall as you can (be careful if it has wheels). Open your legs apart so your arms drop between them. Straighten your legs so your heels are on the floor but not your toes. Knees are relaxed and never locked. Bring your chin to your chest, and then roll down toward your feet, one vertebra at a time. You should feel this first in your neck, then your upper, middle, and lower back. This should be done slowly; relax into each part of the back. Roll up just as slowly. This stretch should take at least 30 seconds.

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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Thursday, September 11th, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Mushroom IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

September is National Mushroom Month! How well do you know your friendly fungi facts?

  1. MushroomsHow many varieties of mushrooms exist? There are about 40,000 varieties of mushrooms. The button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), which is usually grown on farms, is the most popular. Crimini and portobello mushrooms are varieties of the button mushroom. Other popular edible mushrooms include chanterelles, morels, porcinis, shiitakes, oyster, and enoki. In the U.S. alone, there are over 10,000 species, but only 250 of them are edible. So, grazers, beware!

  2. What has more potassium, a portobello mushroom or a banana? A portobello mushroom actually contains more potassium than a banana, and the banana's no slouch in the potassium department. However, it will probably be some time before we see tennis players munching on mushrooms between games to prevent cramping. Often considered to be nutritionally negligible, many varieties of mushrooms contain high levels of B vitamins, potassium, selenium, and phosphorus (some species even glow in the dark!). With practically no calories, why not indulge?

  3. MoneyWhat is the most ever paid for a truffle? Stanley Ho, a casino owner from Macau, paid $330,000 for a 3.3-pound white truffle discovered near Pisa, Italy. October and November are prime truffle season; white truffles retail for around $1,500 to $3,000 a pound, and black truffles go for about $300 to $900 a pound. Pigs were traditionally used to find truffles as the scent of the truffle is similar to a boar sex hormone.

  4. What is the largest mushroom on record? In eastern Oregon, there is a honey mushroom that covered 3.4 square miles of land when it was last measured, and it's still growing.

  5. Quorn MushroomsWhat is Quorn? Quorn is the brand name of a mycoprotein product made from fungus. Only approved by the Food and Drug Administration for sale in the U.S. in 2002, it has been a popular meat substitute in Europe since the 1980s. It is rich in protein and fiber but low in fat and cholesterol. It is mostly sold in frozen food dishes like faux meatballs and chicken nuggets.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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