Slow and steady wins the race. Right? But, how many times have you become impatient and rushed things to try to achieve faster progress? I know that I have. Or, maybe you yielded to your competitive spirit and refused to be slower or weaker than the other guy (even though he or she was younger than you and in better shape)? I bet some of you have done that too. And, I bet you ended up regretting it.
Injuries derail many people who are trying to start a new exercise regimen. If you keep stopping before you even really start, the exercise program is never sustained long enough for you to start seeing results and it never becomes a sustainable habit. I often hear people say that exercise doesn’t work for them. But, if you dig deeper you find out that they weren’t able to maintain the exercise program long enough to reasonably see results. They pushed too hard and/or too fast, sustained an injury, and quit.
So, who is at most risk for injuries? A study of army trainees looked at several factors, including gender, age, height, weight, body fat percentage, level of fitness, etc. Some expected findings emerged, but some were surprising. Women had a significantly higher incidence of time-loss injuries than men, 44.6% compared with 29.0%. More time-loss injuries also occurred for both men and women who were slower on the mile run. Men with histories of inactivity and with higher body mass index were at greater injury risk than other men.
My key takeaways from this are:
- You are obviously at a higher risk of injury if you are not at a solid level of base fitness
- You are also at a higher risk if you push yourself to match the performance of someone who is stronger or faster than you are
So, be honest with yourself about your current level of fitness and set your expectations appropriately. Take it slow and steady if you are getting back into a fitness program. Don’t rush things. Although some challenge it, the general rule of thumb is that you should increase your level of activity no more than 10 percent per week. That includes increasing the distance you run, the intensity with which you train, the weight lifted, and the time spent doing an exercise. Use yourself as your own “yardstick” for progress. I will talk more about this in later posts, but tracking your progress is critical and you will find it much more motivational to see your own relative improvement vs. comparing yourself constantly against others.
Finally, listen to your body. There is a difference between the natural discomfort and muscle soreness that comes with training your body and the pain that occurs when you are heading for an injury. The old saying “No pain, No gain” shouldn’t be taken literally. Yes, to get results you need to push your body beyond your comfort zone. Muscles don’t grow unless you’re telling your body that you are demanding more from it. But, you should not push yourself into the “pain zone” and end up damaging your body. As my trainer says; “Be smart and live to lift another day.”
Lifelong fitness is not a race, it’s a marathon.
Bruce H. Jones, Matthew W. Bovee, John McA. Harris III, and David N. Cowan (1993).
“Intrinsic risk factors for exercise-related injuries among male and female army trainees.”
The American Journal of Sports Medicine 21, 705-710