Monday, October 15th, 2012...9:24 am

Listen to those Nagging Injuries

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by Janice

You’re decked out in your new, neon orange Nike Frees. You planned your pre-workout food to induce the perfect amount of energy, sans food baby in your belly. Swoosh after swoosh, you’re practically floating down the sidewalk. Life is good. You’re ready to take on the world, one pavement block at a time.

Then, fatigue strikes. You check your waterproof watch. Shoot, only four minutes have passed. You attempt to ignore your excruciating side splints. Your vision gets blurry. Could it be the runner’s high? A bad case of nausea? And the moment your foot hits the first turn in the trail, your ankle gives out. You’re down for the count. Sound familiar?

Only Superman does good. Humans can merely hope to do well. And we really want to do well when we’re working out. Your coach relentlessly drilled the mantra No pain, no gain. But when does too much pain result in an inverse relation to gain?

The first step is the hardest. You have to own your problem. Varsity football players aren’t the only ones who need professional attention. Pain is relative, and your injury is certainly legitimate.

I totally sympathize with the Tough Cookie Complex. It’ll go away on its own. I’m too young to have problems already. I’m too hardcore to be injured.

A wise dance teacher gave me the best piece of advice concerning injuries. You’re born with only two legs. If you don’t take care of an injury, you’ve cut your functionality in half. It’s so logical, but it took me years to actually internalize her advice. I kept making excuses. And look where it got me. With an ankle that resembled a toothpick.

So, now that I’ve got you all anxious about your sprained ankle, where do we go from here?

The name of the game: rehabilitation. Through stretching and strengthening, physical rehab helps prevent any future injuries caused from weakened ligaments or from future complications with other body parts overcompensating for the injury. You should see a doctor before trying any rehabilitation on your own. Each injury is different, and it’s important to treat it in the proper way. Here is what worked for me.

Stretch. Stretch. And….oh yeah, stretch. I cannot stress this enough. Make time to stretch before and after your work outs. In general, stay in one stretch for 30 to 60 seconds at a time. If you want some new stretching exercises, take a yoga class. The possibilities are endless.

Massage the built up scar tissue. Do it whenever: at dinner, in class, but maybe not at an interview. And say hello to your new best frienemy: the foam roller. Roll out any tightness on and around your injury for ten minutes. I promise you, it will hurt, and it will hurt so good.

Apply heat to loosen up the tension. Try Icy Hot, Tiger Balm, or a heating pad. And a bonus: Your injury gives you the best excuse to treat yourself to a piping hot bubble bath.

In terms of strengthening, I err on the side of aggressiveness (again, this is my for my injury; yours may be different). After I sprained my ankle for the five-millionth time, I ditched the ankle brace and experimented with aggressive rehab. A la 50 cent, I refused to walk with a limp. I wrote the ABCs with my feet immediately after the incident. I balanced on my sprained foot for minutes every day. If I had a dollar for every marble that I picked up with my toes, I’d be a millionaire. And, miraculously, I was back to teaching high-impact fitness classes that same week.

Above all else, listen to your body. If you wake up in pain, now’s probably not the time to try that new H.I.I.T. workout that you saw on Pinterest. Breaks will help your body recover, so that you can be all that you can be next time. If you want to keep active, try out a low-impact workout. Embrace the chlorine while you swim to your heart’s content.

Remember: Fitness is a lifetime thing. So take care of yourself. Be gentle and forgiving to your body, or else your body might not be so forgiving back to you. Appreciate your 20-something year old resilience because it won’t last forever. Enjoy the ride. And try not to blow out any knees along the way.

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