Rub Some Dirt On It Epilogue

Last week I tackled the following question:

“How can you tell when an exercise injury should be rested rather than rubbing a little dirt on it?”

I also shared that I was actually having to answer the question for myself as I was dealing with a strained calf muscle with a race approaching.

I’m happy to say that I was able to “rub some dirt on it”, and not only finish, but win the Madison Duathlon from Ennis to Virginia City! In my case, the appropriate analogy was more like, “I duct taped it together.” The day before the race, my calf was still quite tender, and I was having some doubts. On race morning, I used a combination of KT tape and a compression sleeve to give my calf some extra support—hence the “duct tape.” After a 13-mile mostly uphill bike, I had to run eight mostly downhill miles into Virginia City. I really didn’t know how my calf would feel until I started running. But other than getting a little tight around the middle of the run, things held together and I was able to get to the finish line relatively unscathed! This week, I’ll give it a little extra TLC and hopefully ease back into my run training, as I have a marathon to be ready for in 16 weeks!

Me at the finish of the Madison Duathlon with my #1 fan. Note the duct tape job.

Rub some dirt on it

Today’s ask-a-wellness-question features one of our favorite sport/medical sayings:

“How can you tell when an exercise injury should be rested rather than rubbing a little dirt on it?”

Excellent question, and one which we all will most likely face several times throughout our lives, especially if we exercise regularly, and/or still participate in recreational sports. In fact, I’m facing this very dilemma currently—but I’ll tell you more about that when I wrap up the article. First, let’s try answering today’s question with a series of questions.

  1. How intense is the pain? It’s good to be in touch with your body. Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something isn’t right. The more acute and intense the pain, the more you should lean toward total rest and recovery. If the pain is more general and mild, you may be able to work through it. Some people have a higher tolerance for pain, but just because you have a high pain threshold, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rest an obvious injury. If you listen to your body, often times you can treat/rest a potential problem before it turns more chronic. Speaking of which…
  2. Is the pain from an acute injury, or overuse? Acute injuries are sudden and often more traumatic. You know when you do it: rolled ankles, pulled hamstrings, torn ligaments, etc. Most of the time this is an obvious sign to stop doing what you were doing and go seek some medical treatment and diagnosis. Continuing to “play through” an acute injury increases the risk of further tissue damage and potentially making the injury worse (more on that in a bit). For today’s question however, I’m assuming most of us think of those more nebulous injuries, many which stem from overuse. Like when we wake up in the morning, roll out of bed and realize our foot/knee/back/fill-in-the-blank doesn’t feel right. Or same thing when you begin exercising, which leads us to:
  3. Does exercise change the pain? If the pain intensifies and worsens when you begin exercising or during exercise my suggestion is to shut it down. Find another type of exercise that doesn’t hurt, or just take a rest day and treat the injury. If I have an injury that only bothers me while I run, then I could still bike, swim, lift, hike, or walk. If the injury hurts no matter what I do, then I rest. However, if the pain subsides during exercise, or a tight area loosens up, then it may be a matter of pain tolerance and working through it. But still consider the final two questions…
  4. Does exercising make the pain better or worse post-exercise? So you’re tough, you rubbed some dirt on it, and you made it through your session. Great job! If the pain is unchanged later that day and the following day, then you may try again, starting back at question #1. But if the pain is worse after exercise, this is when you listen to your body and rest! You are in dangerous territory here, where the injury has a high potential to get chronic. I once had a bad case of Achilles Tendinitis where for months I went through a cycle of: rest a day or two, it feels better, go run, it’s trashed again, rest a day or two, go run… I would’ve done myself a favor by getting more rest and treatment at the onset of the injury, but instead I kept hammering it until it was chronic. Alas, I was young, impatient, and unwise. Now I am old, impatient, and slightly more wise.
  5. Finally, by not resting, do I have the potential to create a more devastating injury? Let me give two examples of professional athletes in recent situations. First, Kevin Durant injured his calf during the NBA playoffs in May. If you don’t follow basketball, Kevin Durant played for the Warriors, and he is really, really good. KD took a month off, and only came back when his team was down three games to one in the NBA Finals. He played 11 minutes in that game, and then ruptured his Achilles Tendon. Sadly, he will most likely miss all of next season. Now, hindsight is 20/20, there was a championship on the line, and he gets paid an awful lot of money to play basketball and win championships, but given the result, it’s pretty obvious he wasn’t ready to come back from his initial injury. Here’s one more that happened just this week. Megan Rapinoe plays for the US Women’s National Team and is one of the best soccer players in the world. She sat out of the World Cup semi-finals because she tweaked her hamstring in the previous match. Perhaps she could’ve rubbed some dirt on it and played? I have no doubt about her mental toughness. But by playing she also would’ve, like Kevin Durant, been risking a more serious injury, perhaps taking her out of the World Cup Final if they won, which they did. Instead, she rested, and now hopefully Megan will be able to give it a go in the final on Sunday. You are most likely not a professional athlete. You are not getting paid and there’s no world championship on the line. So what’s your hurry? If you think you have a minor injury but it could be made worse if you push it, then rest.

In summary, listen to your body! And if you’re unsure, it’s probably always better to err on the side of caution, rest the injury, treat it with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), and if you think it’s serious or chronic, then go get medical diagnosis and treatment. It’s best to have a long term outlook—in this case, health becomes a priority above fitness. Don’t sacrifice your health for fitness! A few missed sessions won’t hurt you that bad in the long run, but a serious or chronic injury can. Or, best case scenario, find an exercise you can do pain-free, while you treat and rest the injured area.

I alluded to actually being in this situation in the beginning of this article. Last Saturday I was running when my right calf had a sudden, deep, acute cramp. I stopped running immediately. I walked for a while and stretched (this was my attempt at rubbing dirt on it) then I tried to run again. My body (via sharp pain in my calf) said no. Run over. Here’s where lies the complication—I’m supposed to race this upcoming weekend in a duathlon. Fifteen miles of biking and seven miles of running. So, let me take my own advice, and answer these questions for myself. Should I rest or rub some dirt on it and continue my training?

  1. How intense is the pain? It’s intense. It’s in one spot. It’s deep tissue. I’m aware of it when I’m walking. I feel like it would hurt if I ran. Verdict: Not running.
  2. Is the pain from an acute injury, or overuse? I have not gotten this injury diagnosed, so I’m not entirely sure, but it feels like it’s more acute.
  3. Does exercise change the pain? I already ruled out running in question 1, but I biked Monday, and it was fine. The pain didn’t get worse. So I can bike.
  4. Does exercising make the pain better or worse post-exercise? No change, maybe felt a bit tighter after riding, but didn’t feel like it hurt or worsened the initial injury.
  5. By not resting, do I have the potential to create a more devastating injury?Yes, I don’t want a torn calf muscle, so I rest and treat it.

So here’s the final verdict. Based on the initial injury I suffered last Saturday, and listening to my body, I have not been running this week, and I don’t think I will. I biked Monday, and now I’m taking a couple of days completely off before biking again. The pain and tightness has subsided a bit each day, but I’m still aware of it, so it’s not totally healed. I felt that my best chance to actually race and finish this Saturday would be to maximize rest and treatment. Will I sacrifice a little fitness? Perhaps, but not much. The risk of “rubbing some dirt on it” and trying to continue my normal routine in order to not lose fitness is much outweighed by the reward of resting. I’d rather feel rested and as healthy as possible to begin the race. So I’ll take the max rest, treat the area as much as I can, and see how I feel on race day. At that point, I’ll go back to questions 1, 3, and 5, and listen to what my body says!

Fingers crossed,


P.S. For more on the subject of injury treatment and prevention, you can go to our MUS Wellness Webinar page, and check out these three webinars: Pain Management; Ask an Exercise Question: Mobility, Injury Prevention, & Recovery; and The Amazing Foot & Ankle Complex.

P.S.S. Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Seth’s Summer Series

We’re thrilled that UM President Seth Bodner has teamed up with MUS Wellness to sponsor a series of challenges:  Seth’s Summer Series (try saying that 3 times really fast) 😉

President Bodner picked out three themes he felt were important to his personal well-being: exercising consistently, eating his veggies, and practicing gratitude.

We just wrapped up our June challenge of exercising consistently—at least three times per week for the challenge.  President Bodner said that in addition to the more formal exercise he enjoys like running or hiking the “M”, he also likes to include fun, everyday things like playing with his kids.  The key is getting in purposeful movement that you enjoy and makes you feel great, everyday!

As we begin July, the second part of the series is practicing gratitude.  Taking a moment each day to identify a few things you are thankful for can have a huge impact on your happiness and success, helping you to focus on the positive aspects of your life.  President Bodnar believes so much in the importance of practicing gratitude that it is a habit he’s teaching to his children. He routinely asks his kids to talk about one thing they’re grateful for from the day as he puts them to bed.  For July, our challenge is to make a list of things you are thankful for four times a week.

We’ll wrap up the series in August with a veggie challenge.  Late summer is the perfect time for this, as so many vegetables are in season and your home gardens are looking great!  President Bodnar loves the salads from the UC food court and tries to go to the farmer’s market whenever he can during the summer.

We really appreciate President Bodner sharing some of his keys to well-being with us.  When we wrap up Seth’s Summer Series, be looking for a Back-to-School step challenge sponsored by MSU President Waded Cruzado!

Be Well!

Yellowjacket Gold

MUS Wellness is proud to announce our first Departmental Award winner! The MSU Billings Library earned our Gold level award for creating an excellent culture of workplace well-being.

Being conscious of well-being is nothing new to the MSUB Library, as they formed a wellness committee back in 2009. The committee created a monthly newsletter for staff and began organizing special events like nature walks, how to make your own hummus and sprouts, and social gatherings outside of work hours.

Currently, the staff holds standing and walking meetings, and most enjoy competing with each other during our Incentive Program step challenges. One of their favorite annual events is the MSUB Spooktacular each Halloween, which gives them the opportunity to work together, get creative, and come up with costume and decoration themes for the library.

Having a supportive supervisor is key for a great work culture, and the MSUB Library recognized its director, Darlene Hert, in their award application:

“Our director is supportive of us attending Wellness webinars. Many times we host the webinars in our library. She covers our shifts,  so we can attend as a group.  When there are opportunities to volunteer on campus, she encourages us to participate. She is quick to remind us to bring healthy options to our potlucks. She is open to new suggestions about incorporating wellness-related activities in our department.”

Some of the Library’s wellness-related activities right now include decorating the stairwell with inspirational signage to encourage taking the stairs rather than the elevator, and a designated activity area where you can earn stickers for performing certain exercises!

The “Wellness Workday” station. Neal earned the first sticker for burpees.

Congratulations MSU Billings Library! You guys are amazing! Keep up the great work!

The Gold staff of the MSUB Library!

If you think your department is worthy of a Wellness Award, check out the criteria and submit your application to us!

Brain Food

It’s Cristin’s turn to answer a question that was recently sent in as part of our Ask-a- Wellness-Question challenge: Are there foods that will help in preventing dementia?

In short, yes! Our understanding of the connection between nutrition and brain health is still growing, but what we know so far is best summarized in the recommendations of the MIND diet, developed in 2015. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It’s a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, which both emphasize vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, while limiting red meat, saturated fats, and sweets.

The MIND diet recommendations are simple. They consist of a list of 10 foods to eat often, and a list of 5 foods to limit. The 10 foods are those that have the most compelling research evidence behind them for their role in preventing dementia. Those foods, along with the minimum number of servings recommended, include:

  1. Green, leafy vegetables: 6 servings per week
  2. Other vegetables: At least one additional serving per day
  3. Berries: 2 servings per week
  4. Nuts: 5 servings per week
  5. Olive oil: Use as your primary cooking oil
  6. Whole grains: 3 servings per day
  7. Fish: 1 serving per week
  8. Beans: 4 servings per week
  9. Poultry: 2 servings per week
  10. Wine: 1 glass (5 oz) red wine per day

By having a daily salad, cooking with olive oil, and snacking on nuts, you’re already well on your way to meeting the recommendations for a healthy brain!

The 5 foods to limit include:

  1. Butter and margarine: Less than 1 Tbsp daily
  2. Cheese: Less than once per week
  3. Red meat: No more than 3 times per week (includes beef, lamb, and pork)
  4. Fried food: Less than once per week
  5. Pastries and sweets: Less than 4 times per week

These foods contain a high amount of trans and/or saturated fats, which have been shown to increase beta-amyloid protein levels in the brains of mice, and contribute to higher levels of inflammation and oxidative stress in our bodies, all of which raise risk for Alzheimer’s.

I have to admit that limiting cheese to less than once per week feels unrealistic to me, especially with a toddler in the house whose diet some days consists of pretty much nothing but cheese! But the good news for me, and for all of us, is that risk of Alzheimer’s disease may be reduced even when the MIND diet recommendations are followed only moderately. One observational study showed a 53% decrease in risk of Alzheimer’s when the MIND diet recommendations were followed very closely, but still a 35% decrease in risk when participants met only some of the diet recommendations. So I’m not saying goodbye to my Gouda just yet. I’ll focus on the other 14 foods for now!

On a different note, if you missed our Halting Hypertension webinar series, don’t fret! Watch the recordings (approximately 30 min each) and take the quizzes before June 28th and you can still earn incentive points for viewing. Plus, if you watch all four, you will be entered into a drawing for a wireless blood pressure monitor and a healthy cookbook!

Link to Webinar Recordings

Week 1: Blood Pressure Basics QUIZ

Week 2: Nutrition Strategies QUIZ

Week 3: Exercise Recommendations QUIZ

Week 4: Stress Management QUIZ

Happy Eating (for your brain and heart)!


Fitness Fanatics Beware!!!

Someone recently shared with me an article in the mainstream media that read: “Fitness fanatics should rethink daily 10,000-step goal, Harvard study claims.” Being the Exercise Specialist for MUS Wellness, I suppose I should consider myself in the Fitness Fanatic population, so I read the article to see what I should beware of, regarding getting all of these steps. Whenever there is a sensational, eye-catching headline like this in the mainstream media based on a scientific study concerning fitness, nutrition, or well-being, I think it is hugely important to read the actual study; or at the very least, the abstract of the study, which should be linked within the article.

I wanted to find out who these fitness fanatics were in this new study. It turns out that they were elderly women, with the average age of 72. And what should these women beware of? It turns out that the results of the study showed a significant decrease in all-cause mortality with more steps, up to around 7500 steps, where there was a plateau. In other words, this study found that older women died less frequently the more they moved up to around 7500 steps, and beyond this there was no additional decrease in mortality rates. Not exactly cause for alarm if you’re hitting 8, 9, or 10 thousand.

I think this is a good example of a news organization taking a scientific study and turning it into a misleading headline to get more views. It happens all the time. If you’re interested in a study, it always helps to go to the source. Personally, while I don’t believe there’s anything magical about 10,000 steps (other than it’s a nice round number, and about twice what the average American gets per day), I do believe that for most adults, there are numerous benefits to getting more steps in general.

Several studies have linked an increased number of steps to a reduction of health risks (here’s a relatively recent one that looked at walking postal workers compared to other adults: [original abstract, summary in NYT]). Note that the NYT article also has a catchy headline on the other end of the spectrum.

As you probably know, I’m a big advocate of getting as much movement throughout the day as possible.  I think if there’s one thing wearing a Fitbit has helped me with, it is to be cognizant of how active I am throughout the day, apart from whatever formal exercise session I might do.  I think it’s also a good thing for people to set their own goals based on their baseline of activity, which a wearable activity tracker can help determine.  For example, for someone who averages 4000 steps a day, 10,000 might not seem realistic at first, but striving to hit 5, 6, or 7 thousand would most likely lead to positive health outcomes, which I believe is one of the actual takeaways from this study on older women.

So, whether you are a fitness fanatic, young or old, man or woman, after reading this article, I think you can set your fears aside, and feel good about getting as much purposeful movement as you can throughout your day!

Be well!


Question Time: A Typical Week

We recently asked you guys to send us health and wellness related questions, and of course we received hundreds of thoughtful queries. In today’s post, I thought I’d tackle a fitness question that I really liked:

“What does a typical week of workouts look like that includes all the components deemed necessary: stretching & flexibility, cardio (HIIT & endurance), balance, strength (upper, lower and core)? Goal to be fit and active in middle age. Limited time to workout like 1-1.5 hrs per day.”

Let me start by saying if you have an hour or an hour and a half to exercise every day, you’re not limited, you’re lucky! Plenty of time to get in everything you need! If you have considerably less time than that, don’t fret, you can still get in what you need during the week, you just have to be intentional and efficient, and perhaps raise the intensity a bit. If you’re really short on time, check back to our recent Express Workout video.

Next let’s check out some of the components mentioned in the question, talk about general guidelines, and look at how they could all fit together in a week of fitness, which is known to coaches as a microcycle.


  • Interval Training, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Great for: burning a lot of calories/weight loss, building anaerobic power, strengthening the heart, building tolerance to fatigue. How much: 1-2 sessions per week, or around 75 minutes total per week.
  • Endurance, LSD (Long Slow Distance). This is your longer, steadier, less intense exercise: walking, jogging, running, cycling, XC skiing, hiking, swimming, etc. Great for: strengthening the heart and circulatory system and burning calories, particularly fat. How much: 3-6 sessions per week, or 150-300 minutes (which can include the higher intensity minutes mentioned above). A lot of this category’s duration will depend on your overall goals and your fitness level—beginners may spend the majority of their weekly exercise minutes in this category.

Strength Training

Great for: building strength, developing lean muscle mass, maintaining bone density, burning calories, and developing movement patterns that are useful in everyday life. For this category, I prefer a full body workout—there’s no real need to split up your strength training into body parts/areas, unless you are a body builder or just want to lift every day. Each session may include lower body exercises, upper body (pushing and pulling), combinations (ex. squat to overhead press), and core. Check out our Exercise Library for ideas. How much: 1-3 sessions per week.

Flexibility and Balance

An oft neglected part of our overall fitness, being properly flexible and having good balance generally leads to better movement in all aspects of life, and less pain. Strength, balance, and flexibility help prevent falls and debilitating injury as we age. Flexibility and balance exercises can be done daily, and can be easily built into our other workouts as dynamic warmups, cool downs, and even active rest between sets. Flexibility and balance may also be practiced as standalone sessions, such as in a yoga class.

Weekly Schedule

I’m not going to assign days. Everyone has a different schedule, and different exercise time preferences. But in my best attempt to answer the question, here is one EXAMPLE of what the prior recommendations could look like. Please keep in mind that this example is malleable and customizable. In other words, it’s a template, and not set in stone. Bend it to your will.

  • Day 1 (55-60 minutes)
    • Dynamic Warmup, including dynamic stretching and flexibility exercises: 15 minutes
    • Easy Endurance Cardio: 10 minutes
    • Intervals or HIIT: 20-25 minutes
    • Easy Endurance Cardio Cooldown: 10 minutes
    • (Many group fitness exercise classes will follow similar formats)
  • Day 2 (60 minutes)
    • Dynamic Warmup: 10 minutes
    • Strength Training or Group Fitness Strength Training Class: 40-45 minutes
    • Easy Cardio Cooldown: 5-10 minutes
  • Day 3 (30-60 minutes)
    • Dynamic Warmup: 5-10 minutes
    • Low intensity Cardio: 25-60 minutes
  • Day 4 (30-60 minutes)
    • Yoga Class, or session focusing on balance, flexibility, & core strength
  • Day 5 (30-60 minutes)
    • Do another day of HIIT, strength training, or long endurance—whatever fits your goals best.
  • Day 6 (30+. i.e. as long as you want)
    • Do something fun that you like.
    • Run a race, go for a hike, get outside and play with your kids, ride your bike to a park and have a picnic.
    • Whatever it is you like to do—go do it. This is what you’re training for.
  • Day 7
    • Rest. Relax. Clean the house. It’s cool to take a day off. Rest is where the magic happens.
    • For those of you who are going to do something everyday anyway, repeat the suggestions of Day 5 or Day 6.

It’s good to have a plan! I feel more fit and well-balanced already!

As a concluding remark, I’d just like to say that I appreciate that the goal of the workout plan is stated in the question, and it is a worthy goal: “to be fit and active in middle age”. We all have different goals and aspirations, but most of us share this common goal—we’re all aging and we all want to continue to be fit and active as we age–to live life well. When it comes to overall health and well-being, I truly believe that the answer was already present in this question. The answer being a blend of cardiovascular exercise of various intensities, along with strength training and the incorporation of flexibility and balance, done consistently over time, will yield fantastic results!

Have fun with it, and keep moving!


P.S. We’ll continue to answer questions right here on Montana Moves & Meals, in every Wellchat Podcast, and in a webinar or two!

References: AHA Exercise Guideline Infographic

Desk Reset Video

Many of us work at a desk, or sit at meetings during work, but research published within the past 10 years clearly points to the association between prolonged sitting and increased health risks including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Not to mention, it just makes us feel bad. When we sit for a long time, our joints stiffen and our metabolism tanks. The good news is that by breaking up long periods of sitting with activity, we can reduce these unhealthy effects. Try the 1-minute Desk Reset after an hour of sitting, and if you have more than a minute, get out and take a short walk or climb some stairs for even better results! Walking expends 150% more energy than sitting, and climbing stairs over 200% more! The more you move during the day, the better for your physical and mental health!

Obviously, this is just an example of one short simple sequence you can do right at your desk. Feel free to be creative, and make up your own desk reset! The main thing is to move, but here are some guidelines to help you create your custom Desk Reset:

  • Incorporate a few different movements, both upper body and lower body.
  • Choose movements that open/stretch the hips, shoulders, and chest.
  • Incorporate simple body weight exercises.
  • Incorporate stretching or your favorite yoga poses.
  • Keep it simple!

If you come up with an amazing desk reset that you’d like to share, send it our way at

Halting Hypertension Webinar Series

If you ever get nervous about a visit to the doctor’s office or Wellcheck, consider this: blood pressure was first measured in the 1700s by a scientist who inserted a glass tube into the artery of a horse and observed the pressure as blood was pushed up the tube. A century later, a physician developed a way to measure blood pressure without having to pierce the skin (thankfully!). Medicine has come a long way! But it still wasn’t until the mid 19th century that checking blood pressure became a regular part of doctor’s visits. Even then, many doctors did not consider high blood pressure concerning; it was seen as just a normal part of aging. In fact, in 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt was given a clean bill of health, even with a blood pressure of 220/120 (normal blood pressure is less than 120/80)! FDR died only months later from a stroke.

The first effective drugs—without terrible side effects anyway—to lower high blood pressure were developed in the 1950s, but it took a few large, randomized, placebo-controlled studies in the 1960s to finally convince the medical community that high blood pressure should actually be treated. The findings of the studies were resoundingly clear. The higher the blood pressure, the higher the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. When high blood pressure was treated, risk was reduced.

Now, in 2019, we know that high blood pressure, known as hypertension, not only should be treated, but that lifestyle modifications can play a huge role in its prevention and management. The foods we eat, how active we are, whether we smoke or not, how we deal with stress, how much alcohol we drink, all play a role in our blood pressure and how likely we are to develop hypertension.

Learn more fascinating facts about hypertension and its prevention by joining our webinar series starting tomorrow (5/14)! We will be hosting four 30-minute webinars on Tuesdays from 12:15 – 12:45pm. If you can’t make it at that time, you can still feel free to register, and you’ll receive the recording as soon as it’s available!

To register, click on the links below:

Tuesday, May 14th: Blood Pressure Basics

Discover the meaning of the blood pressure numbers, how the human body controls blood pressure, symptoms of and risk factors for hypertension, and instructions for getting an accurate blood pressure reading.

Tuesday, May 21st: Nutrition Strategies to Halt Hypertension

Find out which nutrients play an important role in blood pressure regulation, which foods to eat more of, and which foods to only enjoy occasionally, and why the DASH diet remains the gold standard for lowering high blood pressure.

Tuesday, May 28th: Physical Activity Recommendations to Halt Hypertension

We all know that exercise is good for us, but tune in to learn more about the reasons exercise is beneficial for preventing and lowering high blood pressure, and the activities and amount that is recommended for people with hypertension.

Tuesday, June 4th: Managing Stress to Halt Hypertension

Although stress alone may not cause hypertension, unhealthy coping strategies certainly can. We’ll discuss healthy ways to manage stress,  what factors are associated with stress hardiness, what resources are available through MUS Wellness, and we’ll practice a few stress management techniques.