Consistency / Intensity
We live in a fast world that demands results immediately. I go online and see things like “one exercise to fix shoulder pain”, or “quick fix for back pain”. In my experience there are very few quick fixes. The “quickest” way to get results with anything you are doing is to BE CONSISTENT.
Oftentimes we get injured from a misstep of some sort or a quick turn that we’re not ready for. A fall, or slip can lead to six months of rehabilitation and frustrating limitations in our functional ability. We feel that if we get injured in one quick instant, then why can’t we heal in that same amount of time. Unfortunately the body just doesn’t work like that. Tissue damage can be very quick but healing and repair happen very slowly which can be very frustrating.
Let me pose this concept to you for a moment. It’s the idea that prolonged stress leads to instant distress. The term “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” is a real thing. Let’s look at a couple of examples that we see in the clinic. The mom that is coming in because she injured herself in a mommy daughter volleyball game is a story I hear often. She is just having fun, participating in a school event with her kids. She goes for a ball that is out of her reach and rolls an ankle. My question is did she have weakness and or tightness prior to, and the game was just the perfect “setup” for her ankle to finally give way. What about the businessman that is trying to stay in shape by playing softball? He is oftentimes running late from the office. He gets to the field right on time, takes a couple of “warm up” throws and is ready for the game. He is first up to bat. He hits a line drive to third and has to leg it out trying to beat the throw to first. The thing is, unless someone was chasing him, he hasn’t run that fast and hard since his glory days in high school. Reaching for the bag he pulls a hamstring and limps back to the cooler to lick his wounds and drink his pain away. Would the tightness in his hamstrings start to cause him back pain some time down the road? The last example is the individual that is sitting all day at work but on the weekends challenges his or her body with tough gardening and yard work. Lifting heavy rocks and or bags of mulch over the weekend getting the yard ready for the summer. During the last few minutes of the day, they strain their back picking up empty plastic bags or left out tools.
Listen, accidents happen. Professional athletes get hurt all the time, and they are in the best shape of their lives. The point I am trying to make is that consistently training your body for what you want to put it through will help you stay off the injured reserve list. Consistently addressing all aspects of the components of fitness model will help KEEP you ready for whatever life has to throw at you. Working your core might prevent your back injury when you slip on a wet floor in the kitchen. You will have the strength to support the unknown distress that’s placed on your discs, joints, and muscles, if they are trained and prepared. You will have the strength and range of motion to reach for first base if you consistently stretch and mobilize the tight hamstrings that have developed from sitting all day every day. You can have the awareness or proprioception in your ankle that will help keep you from rolling it in the volleyball game.
I am not saying we need to train like professional athletes and spend 4 hours in the gym every time we go. Who has time for that? I am saying be thoughtful in your workouts and make the most of your time while you’re exercising. If you are a long distance cardio nut but want to play softball then maybe throw in some intermittent sprinting and cutting. If your passion is gardening then practice squatting and proper lifting techniques while you are in the gym and or in front of those videos at home.
We often revert back to what we know and have practice in our glory days. But if you are doing the same type workout you were in high school, it’s time to get educated and find something suited for your goals now not then. Your body adapts to consistent change. Keep it guessing and challenged during your workout to get the most out of your time.
I have many patients tell me they’ve never been flexible. I ask them, “Well have you ever really consistently worked on it”? The answer 9 out of 10 times is no. They don’t have time. Is it that they don’t have time or don’t make time?
If you do have an injury, then be consistent with your home exercise program and rehab sessions. That’s going to be what gets you back the fastest. If your goal is “maintenance” in the gym, then maintain work on your weaknesses. You are not going to avoid back pain by intensely stretching your hamstrings one time for twenty seconds at the beginning of your workout then working on one rep max bicep curls. If you are working on strength then don’t spend most of your time on the treadmill. Work on the weaknesses so that we can have complete, functional fitness. This is how we maintain progress and stay consistently healthy.