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If you do a Google search for “benefits of exercise”, the results are in the hundreds of millions. When you Google the results for “effects of too much exercise”, the numbers are exponentially lower…why? Because outside of the Sea to Sky corridor, and other pockets of this planet with exercise or outdoors obsessed folks, people DON’T MOVE much. Around here though, I’ve learnt that a little caution in required regarding the additional benefits of exercise when you’ve either had several previous injuries, are a bit cardio-obsessed or start up a little too much too fast…
For people who are extreme bikers, paddlers, boarders, skiers, kiters, climbers….insert other sport here)
As a physiotherapist working in Squamish for over 10 years, I am no longer surprised when a new patient, typically an active, outdoorsy person in their 30’s or 40’s, comes in with a long list of old injuries including major joint sprains, or fractures and/or years of general aches and pains.
Most of these clients come in with an immediate issue to deal with- “it hurts in my ankle such that I can’t snowboard well anymore without it swelling up afterwards”. Once we delve into the “life story” of injuries and heavy activity, it becomes apparent that an old issue that apparently mended long ago has left behind a trail of muscle imbalances that has possibly creating a mechanical “glitch” in the system. I am not an expert on vehicles, but imagine that your not-new-anymore car hits a pothole on the Sea to Sky leaving your car sadly misaligned because you were unaware that the shocks had tanked a few months/years back. The unassuming pothole causes more damage overall to the vehicle with the poor shocks by decimating the forces throughout the rest of the vehicle’s frame, to settle, quite likely, on any weak link that it finds.
So, perhaps your weak link is an old ankle sprain that now hurts when you hit the bumps on the hill because your “shock absorbers” (aka your muscles) are wound up tightly or wound up unevenly somewhere in the chain. This is the puzzle for your physical therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor etc etc to sort out! But, I’m sure you can imagine that working on the problem at the ankle is hardly going to deal with the lack of shocks elsewhere that are leading to your swelling, pain and inability to play! Which leads me to
TIP #1- If your injury history takes more than fifteen minutes to recount to the person next to you on the chairlift, consider having a complete “bio-mechanical” exam done by a health practitioner who can help you determine where balance is needed and some rehabilitative exercises might help prevent further damage and PROLONG play time!
For Cardio-Addicts (especially runners…)
Stepping out of my physiotherapist hat into my recreational exerciser hat, I have great sympathy for this group. I suffered from this addiction well into my late 20’s. I started running at the age of 9 because I could “beat the boys” fairly easily. I have some level of natural ability for cardio sports and went from running 800m to a marathon at the age of 19.
I started to learn early that a variety of sports was healthier on the body and drifted towards training for triathlons to fulfill my cardio “obsession” so I hopped on that wagon too. It has become apparent now, as my running career slows down considerable that the sport I used to love, for leaving me feeling light and powerful, now has me plodding along, well, not so smooth and graceful as I once was.
What happened, you ask??? A number of things including…
- Too much too soon when I started back at it ( More on this below in the “over-zealous starter” section)
- Old injuries with leftover muscle imbalances (see above section on “extreme” athletes)
- The (real) concern that I’m not treating my joints very well by running on them now.
There is growing support for the idea that continuing to run when the body has sustained lower body ligament injuries (ie. sprains) leads to early joint damage. Ouch!
Here’s what happens- we have fairly dense slippery, smooth-like-marble shock absorber surfaces in our joints- aka “the joint cartilage” that help cushion loads. With age it begins to thin. With joint injury it thins more quickly, or in a focused area, or even cracks a little. When this happens, it’s bit like walking in shoes without socks. While socks help provide cushioning, they also prevent the slipping/sliding inside the shoe that would lead to redness and pain from the rubbing and eventually to some blisters! Same happens in joints as they lose their cushion, they get inflamed, especially under LOADS. Because running is 5 times more loading on the lower body joints than walking is, the effect on the joints is higher. The most common joints to see this wear and tear are the hands, hips, spine & knees. While 85% of us will have some signs of osteoarthritis when we’re 85, expect this to occur much earlier on joints that have had injuries and have not been unloaded or well-rehabilitated.
So, I am not encouraging being a couch potato! I am encouraging smart choices. Pick repetitive activities that don’t load the joints, if you’ve had some previous injuries in your life (even if it was an ACL tear or meniscus injury in your teens). Which leans me to…
TIP #2-Make sure you address muscles balance in the body, from front side to back side, left to right, core to extremities. Your worth it. Be smart now and your be able to play for many years to come!
The Over-zealous Starter You know who you are. You make a commitment to getting fit and you have just the plan to get there, by next week!!! You buy the gear and start right a way, full ON! You can’t fathom why one would go for a 30 minute walk or run when hiking the Chief is what you used to do (everyday, sometimes twice on Saturdays)! Maybe it’s because it makes you feel vital & young to crank out the first half of the Test of Metal on your 2nd ride of the season…
News flash! Fitness takes time to build. Rest days are just as important as workout days because you need some recovery. A good benchmark is to increase by 10% a week. If you did nothing last week, 10% of nothing is well….just a little bit. Which leads to…
TIP #3- The Sea to Sky Highways wasn’t widened in a week- it takes planning and discipline to get fit. NO point in starting strong only to finish two weeks later because you’ve caused an overuse injury! Make sure your goals have a long enough range to allow for the body to adapt, aka if you run 5-10kms regularly (pain free), you need 4-6 months to condition your body for a marathon.
If you have questions or comments about these topics, please don’t hesitate to leave me a message.
Thanks for reading,
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