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,

Neal

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!

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!

Neal

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.

Cardio

  • 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!

Neal

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 mtchallenge@montana.edu

Helena College Walks it Off!

Our MUS Campus Walk-off challenge concluded last Sunday, and we wanted to give a shout out to our champion—Helena College! Way to go! MUS Wellness program participants at Helena College will be receiving 50 bonus Incentive points as a prize. Woot Woot! Here were our Top 3 schools:

  • Helena College: 399,085 steps per participant during challenge
  • Montana Tech: 355,562 steps
  • Dawson Community College: 336,782 steps

With an average step count of 399,085 over the 41 day challenge, Helena College participants averaged almost 10,000 steps a day! That’s awesome! Also kudos to Dawson Community College, our smallest college in the system, who slayed some giants for a podium finish!

Finally, for those of you who might be interested, the Griz beat the Cats this round, with UM in the 4th spot with 327,933 steps per participant, and MSU Bozeman with 299,023. MSU Billings was the top Montana State location, inches behind the Griz with 327,533 steps per participant.

Since we competed for MSU Bozeman in this challenge, Cristin and I are going to make the excuse that it was still full-on winter here in April, and therefore Missoula had an advantage. 😉 But perhaps our population in Butte, who came in second, would scoff at that notion. But folks in Butte are pretty tough—they are impervious to weather.

All joking aside, congrats MUS, and thanks for participating. You’re all winners! Be looking for our next step challenge to launch this summer! And of course, continue to get outside and have fun in beautiful Montana!

Bike Ready

May is National Bike Month, and even though winter was still in full force on the last day of April, May looks promising for some more spring-like weather, so if you haven’t already, this weekend could be a great time to knock the off-season dust of your family’s bikes and make sure they’re ready to roll!

Basic bicycle maintenance you can do at home

  • Get air in the tires and make sure they are holding air pressure.
  • Check tires for any wear or damage that would warrant replacing.
  • Clean the chain, gears, and derailleurs, and give them some fresh lube.
  • Check the seat and seat post to make sure they are tight and in the right position. Clean any dirt/dust from seat and seat post.
  • Test the brakes to make sure they are working properly, and that the brake pads aren’t rubbing on the rims of the wheels.
  • Just give your bike a general cleaning so it looks shiny and ready to roll!

If your bike is in need of a more major overhaul, you can always head to your local bike shop for a spring tuneup!

Bike month resources/events

  • National Bike to Work Week is May 13-17. National Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 17th. Check out your local community calendar for special events!
  • Bozeman is celebrating Bike to Work Week on June 3-7, Bozemanites, stay tuned for a list of coffee and brewery stops for that week. MUS Wellness will host a tent on the MSU Centennial Mall on Friday, June 7th for our MSU commuters!
  • Missoula has events all month long! Check them out here with this awesome Bike Month Calendar.
  • FVCC in Kalispell is starting weekly rides on Wednesdays from May 7 to August 21. The group will meet between 5:15 and 5:30. For more info contact
    dgrabowski@fvcc.edu

Have fun and be safe!

Express Workout Video

The latest Montana Moves video is featured this month in our online Incentive Program, but we also wanted to post it here in case anyone missed it!

Lack of time is often used as an excuse for missing exercise.

“Just too busy today.” “I meant to get to the gym, but I just ran out of time.” “The day just got away from me.”

Sound familiar? We’ve all said things like this, and your Exercise Specialist is no exception. In fact, the time in my life when I probably missed workouts most often due to a hectic schedule is when I actually worked in a gym! Ironic.

I won’t steal too much thunder from the video, but researchers have shown that with high intensity circuits, you can actually get a pretty good workout in a very short amount of time—in our case, just nine minutes! So next time you’re short on time, just remember that “Something is better than nothing!”

The format goes something like this:

  • 8-12 Exercises. Mostly body weight.
  • 30 seconds of high quality (intense) work
  • 15 seconds of rest (take more if you’re a beginner)
  • After the circuit is complete, cool down, or take a short break and repeat the circuit if time allows.

The advantages of this style of workout include:

  • Minimal equipment necessary.
  • It can be done pretty much anywhere. No gym required.
  • There is a cardio and strength component.
  • It’s a full-body, balanced workout.
  • It’s adaptable—choose exercises & intervals that fit your fitness level.
  • You don’t need big time commitment to do it.
  • In a research study, the experimental group performing this workout showed improvements in body fat, insulin sensitivity, aerobic capacity, and muscular fitness.

Enjoy!

Neal

P.S. As a final disclaimer, I’m not suggesting you ditch your existing routine in favor of doing only 9 or 10 minutes of exercise per day! But it is nice to know that when we’re short on time, we can still get in an effective workout.

Creating Healthy Space

Our environment plays a critical role in influencing so many of the choices we make daily. Given the choice between easy and difficult, we most often choose easy. More complicated, or simple? We’ll take simple please. When it comes to exercise, I’ve heard a fitness expert say, “The best gym is the one that’s closest to your house.” My gym at MSU is steps from my office, and even on the coldest, iciest winter days I know I can make there. Having a convenient healthy space at home or at the office also makes it easy to take a few minutes to stretch, meditate, or break a sweat when we need to.

Our first Montana Moves challenge this year was to create (or upgrade) a healthy space at home or work, so we thought we’d check in to see some of the great ideas you guys came up with! Here is a sampling of what you shared:

  • I used my Amazon gift card to bring kettlebells to work where a group of us meets every morning at 9:30 for a 10-15 minute session As a group we are going to #commit to meeting daily!
  • I created space in my bedroom, complete with weights, roller, resistance bands, yoga mat and fitness ball. I am using the space for quick morning workouts.
  • I moved furniture in guest bedroom to make yoga studio.
  • Yesterday I finished up creating my workout space. Balance ball, TRX, yoga mat with a streaming TV to follow along with my favorite YouTube workouts!
  • Fitness space is in the bonus room above the garage. It’s a life saver during the week in the winter. Has a dip bar, weights, agility ladder, fitness step, fitness bands, balance board, and exercise ball.
  • Cleaning out our old family room in basement that became our junk room. Almost have a calm and relaxing meditation room.
  • I put all my equipment in an easy to access corner — yoga mat/blocks, hand weights, foam roller. Small spaces make it hard, but seeing them and having them all together should make planning easier.
  • I now have a designated stretching/PT while watching Netflix space at home.
  • We have turned one of our extra bedrooms into a workout space with TV, mirrors, weights, treadmill.
  • Donated all extra furniture in basement rec room, then cleaned, greased, and replaced drive belt on the elliptical. Less clutter makes a much better exercise space.

A few theme’s emerged from reading through people’s comments. First, you don’t need a lot of equipment or a huge space. Most of you kept it simple: yoga mat, roller, maybe a few free weights or resistance bands. Second, many of you mentioned your workout entertainment to go along with the space, whether it was music or a television. For me personally, I gotta have my music going during a workout! Finally, it seemed like a lot of people already had the equipment they needed, it was just a matter of getting it all together and organized. It’s possible there may be a life lesson somewhere in that last observation. 🙂

As usual, super job MUS! Keep making the healthy choices the easiest ones to do, and enjoy all your new spaces!

Neal

Hitting 10,000. Every Day.

Today’s success story comes from Trudy Carey. Trudy is the director of Disability Support Services at MSU Billings, and has been a Wellness Champion on that campus for several years. Trudy has also been a very active and competitive participant in all our wellness challenges. She especially loves a good step challenge, as her story will attest to. Thanks for sharing Trudy! Keep up the awesome work!

I love the Limeade program, especially the step/mile challenges.  I have walked 10,000+ steps every day since the 10,000 step-a-day challenge a couple of years ago.  Thanks to that, and the fact that I can see how many calories I burn on my Fitbit, I lost 35 pounds and have kept it off for more than two years.  I never thought of myself as a competitive person, but I discovered that I am very competitive about staying on the leader board for walking challenges.  In fact, the most recent team challenge in which I participated named the team “We follow Trudy”! 

Trudy Carey, MSUB

Here’s some good news for Trudy—we’re thinking about bringing back that 10,000-step-a-day challenge [Million Step Club] in 2019. Who’s up for starting your own streak?