Article by Dr. Darrell Menard
As a sports doc, I have seen military personnel injure themselves in many unusual ways. This includes running into a barbed wire fence, dislocating a shoulder while seizuring and having a cornea peeled off by a line drive in baseball. These types of injuries are impressive but they aren’t very common. What is extremely common are the injuries that come from making the mistake of training too hard, too often and too soon. A classic example of this is the flight engineer that hasn’t swam in 10 years, who one day decides to do 60 lengths of front crawl just to see if he or she can still do it. This type of workout is absolutely no fun and often ends with the person injured or so sore they never want to swim again.
Excessive training occurs at every level of fitness, including Olympic hopefuls and local fun run participants. In every case, people simply don’t allow their body sufficient time to adapt before increasing their workload. This mistake is most commonly made by people who are just beginning their training program. These people are excited to get started and remember how fit they used to be but they don’t realize how much physical fitness they have lost. So driven by enthusiasm, they often start their fitness program at a level that is way too demanding for their deconditioned body. It is important to recognize it takes time for the body to adapt to the stresses of training and this process can’t be accelerated by taking dietary supplements, wearing a magnetic bracelet or volunteering for hypnosis.
The bottom line: regardless of your fitness level, you need to progress your fitness program slowly and carefully. No two people adapt at the same rate, so it’s impossible to design an exercise prescription that works for everyone. As a general rule, if you haven’t done a fitness activity for a long time, try doing it at a lower level for several months to give your body the chance to get used to exercising again. For example, try brisk walking for six to eight weeks before slowly and carefully trying to get back into running. You may also find it very helpful to alternate high-impact activities such as running with low-impact activities such as swimming or cycling. Make sure you take at least one day of rest per week and never increase your training load by more than 5 to 10% a week. Following these basic injury prevention strategies will help you spend more time exercising and less time with your physiotherapist. Train smart and remember that exercise is medicine!
It takes time for your body to adapt to training and no amount of motivation, dedication or hard work will change this situation.
Dr. Darrell Menard OMM MD, Dip Sport Med
Dr. Menard is the Surgeon General’s specialist advisor in sports medicine and has worked extensively with athletes from multiple sports. As part of the Strengthening the Forces team he works on injury prevention and promoting active living.
Strengthening the Forces is CAF/DND’s healthy lifestyles promotion program providing expert information, skills and tools for promoting and improving CAF members’ health and well-being.