Is movement the best medicine?
First and foremost I want to preface that I am not a medical professional, so if your pain is sharp, chronic, or debilitating, please seek out a medical expert to diagnose you and help you create a treatment plan. If you have been cleared to exercise, though, and are looking to overcome or diminish the aches and pains that make your life more difficult and wearying, I always love to share my thoughts based on thousands of hours of personal training and coaching people from all walks of life.
I have seen canes put back in closets, knees bend that haven’t in years, and people stand taller after hard days of physical work that would usually put them flat on their backs.
So how do you train your body so that movement is an answer to your issues rather than doing further harm? How do we work with athletes of all ages and medical histories and see them improve their quality of life even with the “spring chicken” years behind them?
Foundational Skills & Muscle Development
With many we find that pain and discomfort come from overuse of a muscle group, poor movement patterns, or lack of stabilizing muscles that support joint health. When people come to us, cleared to move, but complaining of chronically “bad knees” (hips, shoulders, etc.) we don’t push them to full squats and movement under load! Instead we focus on building strength incrementally and intentionally, so that as their capacity for work increases they can do more with less pain.
: Vicky came to us working hard to avoid surgery on her knees – using a stabilizing brace on one or both of her knees most days and walking with some kind of aid. You can learn more about her & her husband’s fantastic journey to better health
. We knew that in order to keep her safe, we needed to steadily develop the muscles of the leg to support better range of motion in her knees. We also needed to do that carefully as to not increase her pain or take her back out of the ability to exercise regularly.
We practiced small step ups that gradually grew in height and taught her knees to move through a broader range of motion, but with little impact, on the rowing machine. Through a variety of strength-building exercises we built both muscle mass, and confidence until Vicky could stand, walk, climb & descend stairs, and play with her grandkids with less pain and more autonomy. Activities like gardening that she loves but were becoming impossible were a reality again with the ability to get down to the ground and up again with minimal discomfort.
For Vicky and many others like her, intentional movement with a focus on building strength and range of motion was the answer to a pain-free and more fulfilling life.
You can think of this as the “dialing back” of a movement in order to give a muscle rest after overuse, the scaling of a range of motion in order to place the body correctly, or an adjustment to equipment in order to make sure someone moves well. We modify constantly for a variety of reasons and often it is because of that “niggle” or “twinge” makes a movement feel not quite right. Attempting to ignore and push through that discomfort is a sure-fire way to end up needing to discontinue movement to recover, and it also doesn’t push you toward better health – which includes the best possible care of your body.
Smart Modifications for Moving and Respecting Discomfort
Using a single dumbbell with alternating arms so you can focus on quality movement
Placing a “target” behind you for squats to build confidence and range of motion
Doing assisted and/or strict gymnastics (i.e. pull ups or push ups) before applying momentum that can be damaging to the shoulders
Learning skills with PVC pipe or a broomstick before moving under load
Walking, biking, swimming, or rowing for less impactful cardio
These types of modifications are business as usual for Laura and I and our athletes. Good health is about checking your ego, so if you are pushing through pain you need to ask yourself why and if it is really helping you meet your goals.
Rest & Recovery
Even the fittest among us rest and recover. It is, in fact, an integral part of having a healthy and resilient body that does what you need it to. Building rest into your routines will decrease your likelihood of injury, give your body time to overcome soreness, and allow your body to do the work of repair that it needs time to do. Sleep, drink water, stretch, move gently. Plan for these breaks in movement and commit to them.
You may be finding yourself at a time of life when recovery from physical activity – either work, recreational, or exercise-related – isn’t as quick and easy as it used to be. Maybe you are slower to get out of bed in the morning or find your side-stepping those stairs. Does moving heavy objects leaving you thinking about your lower back more than you used to? If that sounds you, intentional movement through exercise even MORE imperative to continuing to live your life and do the things you need to and love to.
We can help! We’ll make a plan that compliments your life, not diminishes it’s quality even more. We can help you move better for longer with less discomfort. Use the form below to contact us and make a plan!