In the last 18 months or so, many of us have made the transition to work from home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you are one of these people you may have noticed some aches and pains surfacing. Home offices are usually not the most ergonomic but there are adjustments you can make to help prevent pain and make your set-up as comfortable as possible.
It has definitely been a frustrating time for us all, after just completing our second lockdown in as many years. I’m sure there are lots of activities we are looking forward to returning to. One of these is returning to the gym and getting back to the healthy lifestyles we all once knew and loved.
With the excitement of being able to return to the gym some people may fall into the trap of attempting to go straight back to where they were pre-lockdown. Unfortunately, that isn’t the best strategy. From such a long break the research tells us that there are multiple outcomes such as muscle loss, strength loss, and our nervous system becoming less ‘fine-tuned’ then what it was. Whilst a number of us were trying our best to train at home, without the bigger weights, proper equipment etc we can only do so much.
It’s not all doom and gloom however. One positive we will see going back to the gym with a solid plan of attack will be quick gains in terms of strength, hypertrophy etc over the first few weeks as our nervous system kicks back into gear. Some important factors to put into our planning include goal setting, consistency, programing effectively, targeting potential weaknesses that may have occurred over the lockdown period (to avoid any possible injuries we may pick up), and balancing out our lifestyle.
SOME STRATEGIES TO ENSURE WE GET THE MOST OUT OF THESE FACTORS INCLUDE:
- SMART goals: It is important that when we first go back to the gym we have a plan moving forward. The use of SMART goals may be an easy method for anyone to utilise. It stands for:
- Specific: Your goal should be clear and specific; this should help push you in the right direction. Think about what do you want to accomplish with this goal.
- Measurable: It is important to be able to track your progress. This allows you to stay focus and also keeps you motivated when you look back on how much you’ve been able to grow over a specific time.
- Achievable: Your goal has to attainable with the circumstances you set.
- Relevant: Ensure the goal is something that matters to you, or is going assist you in growing in the future.
- Time-Bound: Every goal needs a deadline date, having that deadline allows you to focus better on the goal and force you to fit it in better with the rest of life.
- An example of a SMART goal could be:
- I want to manage my weight and keep fit and active to look after my grandchildren by returning to weight training 2 days per week and aerobic training 5 days per week within the next 2 months.
- Consistency: Arguably the most important factor to working towards your goals. It’s about staying motivated. Whilst it is important to note that everyone is different and we all have different motivating factors, some easy strategies to help include:
- Having a gym buddy to keep each other motivated to get to the gym.
- Setting times and days that you intend on going, just like going to work or other events.
- Having a personal trainer, again motivating you to get there at the times you set. Additionally, it takes away from the effort of coming up with your own programs.
- Programming: As we are just getting back into the gym it is important that our programs reflect that:
- Taking our exercises, weights or reps back a notch just to ensure we aren’t overloading ourselves.
- Including a warm up to avoid injury and cool down to avoid things such as DOMs the next day.
- Increase load slowly as you are able to. Whether that’s using strategies like adding one rep to every set every week, ensure you are cautious of progressing too quickly.
- Fixing potential weaknesses: As a lot of us have been working from home and doing activities that we haven’t in a long time, and with that there is always the chance of injuries, aches and pains popping up in weird spots. Don’t be afraid to see a chiropractor or physiotherapist if it’s more then you were anticipating.
- Balanced lifestyle: Going back to the gym is only part of the equation. There are other factors that will influence us returning to our full potential. These include:
- Diet: Eating a good balance diet including your carbs, proteins, fats and micros such as fruits and vegetables. Utilising apps like MyFitnessPal to assist with counting kilojoules or calories, or keeping a food diary may help with this process.
- Sleeping: 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Going to bed earlier, eating dinner earlier, getting off electronics before bed and reading are all great ways to assist with this process.
- Routine: Organising your new schedule including work, seeing friends etc. Fitting in your healthy habits like gym where you can and sticking to it.
- Social: Some people don’t realise that our social health is extremely important, it has been a while since we were all able to go out and see each other, take this opportunity to catch up with others, whether it’s training together at the gym, getting coffee going for a walk are all great ways to catch up with people.
Many of us have experienced it. We’re just starting to make progress and then the same frustrating niggle that happened last time starts to creep in. Many thoughts go through our head. “Should I slow down and lose the momentum I’ve worked hard to build”? “Maybe If I push through it will be different this time around?”. Inevitably if you’ve been in this situation before, you know how the story ends….. Usually in the practice on the table asking why me!
We see this time and time again. A large part of avoiding recurrent injuries is understanding them in the first place. What is your body trying to tell you? Where does the problem come from? What do I need to change in order to stop this cycle from happening again? These are all healthy questions to be asking and effort in finding the answer will certainly yield results.
In practice, I explain the body as a “system”. Your system is both strong and adaptable, constantly making changes to complete the tasks you ask of it. If one part of the system becomes fatigued, a neighbour knocks on the door to lend a hand. Over time our system becomes so well adapted to stressors that we barely notice what were once challenging tasks. This in a nutshell is the whole premise of training and improving – termed progressive overload.
So what are these aches and pains that start to creep in everytime I’m on track to hitting a new lifting PR or knocking 90 seconds off my running PB? Quite simply, your system (and its tired neighbours) can no longer handle the load. We’ve either progressed too fast that the system can’t adapt, or there is something more underlying going on.
WHAT IS YOUR BODY TRYING TO TELL YOU?
There are two ways system overload can be handled. The first is simply to reduce the stress on the system. I know this isn’t the answer we wanted to hear, but reducing stress on the system will allow opportunity for it to recover and be ready to go again. This is a great position to be in, as the error usually lies in the training program or occupational demands and not the body itself. Stimulus/ load just occurred too hard, too soon and it is usually very simple to amend under the guidance of a trained health professional.
WHERE DOES THE PROBLEM COME FROM?
The second way to handle system overload is to simply improve the systems capacity to handle stress (ie. strengthen the system – in particular the deficits that may be occurring). By improving capacity, we’re essentially raising the ceiling, giving more room for work into the future. Thorough movement assessment by a health professional will allow you to discover what needs work and ultimately how to disrupt the cycle we’re working hard to avoid.
So what way is best? It’s not a cop out, but the best answer in our opinion is a little bit of both. By reducing load and rehabbing during the deload period to improve capacity, your body (or system) is now in a better position to grow and develop. Follow this up with a clinically guided return to performance program and you’ll be wishing you had addressed this sooner!
Made it this far and not sure what to do? Give us a call on 02 9126 8263 and our APEX Health Movement team would love to discuss this with you.
When we think of exercise, the first place our mind might wander is working out in a gym, playing sport on the weekend or running for kilometres on end. These types of exercise are known as planned or structured exercise. While they are extremely important in maintaining health, incidental exercise also has an important role.
WHAT IS INCIDENTAL EXERCISE?
Basically, any sort of movement that is completed throughout the day that is unplanned or unstructured. It may only be a few minutes here and there every hour and it might only be light exercise, but the accumulation of all those minutes at the end of the day can potentially make up the majority of our movement in a total 24 hours.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Some benefits include:
- Blood flow and circulation to improve cardiovascular health
- Weight management and energy balance
- Improves mood
- Sleep quality
- Memory and mental clarity
The human body is not designed to stay still or in the same position all day. Especially during the times we are in at the moment (lockdown), it can be easy to lose track of time and sink deeper into the couch as you watch TV, or hunched over into the office chair after Zoom meetings all day. Incidental exercise is a way to counter the effects these habits could have on your health and your body.
Some ways that you can increase the amount of incidental activity you do in a day:
- Starting an Apple Watch competition with your mates – who can get the most steps?
- Walking to your local cafe for a coffee
- Standing behind the desk instead of sitting during a Zoom meeting
- Taking the stairs instead of the lift at the shops
- Cleaning the house
- Doing 10 pushups and 10 squats during every TV ad break
- Carrying the grocery bags inside from the car (make those few extra trips instead of trying to carry all the bags at once)
- Playing outside with the kids
- Washing the car
- Walking the dog
- Standing on the bus/train instead of sitting
- Gardening and yard work
- Parking your car 10 minutes further from your work building and walking the rest of the distance.
One of the best things about incidental exercise is that it is not time consuming. By adding a few chores that need to be completed or any hobbies you have into your day, you will be productive and enjoying yourself while remaining active at the same time.
Although incidental activity should not replace structured exercise, it is an integral part of maintaining your health. Not only is it mostly unplanned without having to be scheduled into the day, making it a convenient way to remain active throughout the day, you can see how it plays an important role in supporting a healthy lifestyle. So give some of those strategies a go and reap the rewards of incidental exercise!
Chiropractor and Exercise Scientist Daniel Camilleri (@APEXHM) explains why being able to listen to and understand our body is important in taking our results to the next level
The human body is an incredible machine, continually adapting to daily stressors and the physical, neurological and emotional demands we place on ourselves.
From birth, we’re a blank canvas. Ready to absorb and express beliefs, fears and behaviours taught to us throughout the stages of life. With this in mind, we will typically move best after learning to walk and run. If you have younger kids, take a moment now to look away from your screen and observe them for a minute. How are they sitting? How are they moving? Do they have difficulty reaching a full depth squat? Do they have any issues “bear crawling” around? I bet most of you are shaking your head in utter jealousy right now, probably as your kids are holding a position that could resemble a plank hold whilst reaching out with one arm and having a leg off the ground. It just isn’t fair right??
So what happens from here? How do we go from that beautiful “functional” machine to where we are now? Taking a few minutes to warm up and get moving in the morning, then making it to the gym to spend what feels like hours to reach that full depth squat? Well first I guess we need to tackle our definition of “functional”. What is “functional”? We hear it being thrown around so loosely nowadays, particularly in the training circles. Is a snatch functional? Is a squat functional?
Let’s go back to that young child for just a minute. What are they trying to do? They’re moving around the floor, exploring, picking up objects and learning from their surroundings. Their bodies have adapted and learnt from the moment they’re born to do just this. Stay low to the ground, crawl and climb. This is “functional” for THEM. But what about us adults? I don’t know about you, but I unfortunately don’t have the luxury of spending hours on end moving around the floor like my once much younger self. Instead I work, I drive, and yes…. Even I SIT to watch tv or surf the net.
Our bodies adapt, making use of joints and tissues to make these daily movements as efficient and “functional” as possible. So this leads me to my first pet peeve. Don’t let someone tell you to do a specific exercise or movement because it’s “functional”. Ask them, functional for what? Do they know what you ask of your body daily? You can’t possibly apply one “functional” exercise to all, we’re all so unique.
So enough of that little rant, why are we here? Maybe we have athletic performance goals in mind? Maybe we just train to be better at life? Or heck maybe we just love our training community and want to get amongst it? Whatever the reason, it’s irrelevant. What all these scenarios share though is that an injury or setback would be most inconvenient. Not being able to train or worse, not being able to function outside the gym kills motivation and hinders progress.
Pain in the body is actually great. It tells us that something isn’t quite right. It would be more concerning if we didn’t have pain whilst experiencing some sort of injury wouldn’t it? We’ve all had years of experience in life, whatever our story, our body has become “functional” for what we’ve asked of it most of our lives. We bring these stories into our training. This is why we all move so differently. When we have pain doing a particular movement, it’s not our bodies telling us we can never do that movement. It’s our body saying “hey, you’ve never asked me to move like this and we’re not ready”. Taking the time to listen to these warnings and identify the WHY will ensure longevity in training, longevity in development and in some instances even shrink the time we sit in training plateaus.
Some might be asking “what happens if I don’t listen to these warnings”? Well put simply, it can go one of two ways.
- With continual stimulus we adapt, the pain goes away and we continue on training pain free for a period of time. We then increase weight, volume and intensity and the pain may come back. Sometimes in the same spot, sometimes in a different spot. The cycle continues and we either repeat this step or move on to step 2.
- We break down and get injured. Who do we have to blame? Our body had been warning us for a while hadn’t it?
It’s interesting to note that the best athletes in the world are usually the best compensators or “movement cheaters”. Their brain has simply figured out how to do it and their body has adapted to this. They aren’t the norm however, they are a freak of nature. They also happen to get regular treatment and usually have the best in performance care. Most of us aren’t this lucky, which is why we should take action sooner rather than later.
This is where we come in. Assessing the body and applying movement corrective exercises to address these weaknesses and compensations. I often tell my clients that what we as Chiropractors do doesn’t give you strength, we can’t teach you how to put your foot on the accelerator. That’s what a coach and trainer is for. What we do however is teach you how to take your foot off the brake. Using the strength you’ve developed and teaching you to move more efficiently.
The philosophy is simple:
- Identify the “functional” habits we’ve learnt over the years that may impede what we want to do in training
- Build a solid foundation, developing our areas of weakness
- Develop specific goals in your head. Remember your WHY. Why are we training? What are we asking our body to do
- Train with this purpose in mind
- Listen to early warning signs
We all know how hard it can be to stay on task, particularly during winter and recent lockdowns. So in my opinion following the above steps will not only give us one less excuse not to train, but keep us training injury free and hopefully now with a better understanding of the warning signs.
Our APEX Health Movement team are here to help. We’re a phone call away and ready to answer any and all questions you may have.
For further information, feel free to check out our website (apexhealthmove.com.au), Facebook or Instagram (@apexhm).