Friday, July 26, 2013

"No Pain No Gain" Mentalilty CAN Cause Serious Injuries

     This summer is 30 years since I picked up my first dumbbell (I'm not talking about guys), and these were the old sand weights I started with! The summer following my junior year in high school I started dating a boy who had that "naturally thin" build and although he was very fit, when he took his shirt off to go swimming, I told him he was skinny. Apparently guys don't like to hear that as much as girls do, so he started working out with the free weights in his garage. He became so obsessed with getting "BIG" (like most young guys that first start lifting weights), that if I wanted to hang out with him I'd have to watch and spot him...or join in. I've been a trainer and eventually a group exercise instructor ever since!
     I've acquired many certifications over the years, worked in numerous fitness facilities, and worked with as well as worked out with some experts in the field. It's safe to say that I have a lot of experience when it comes to working out and I find it disturbing when I see other trainers having their client do exercises that are either incorrect in form, inappropriate for their size or age, or just harmful for their joints. I don't want to come across as a "know-it-all" because I don't, but when I see this I cringe.
     My objective here is NOT to criticize other instructors/trainers because I probably did some of the same things when I started working in a gym at 17. I am trying to raise awareness to all of you who use a trainer, take group exercise classes, or just train with a friend who helps motivate and guide you. I totally encourage getting help form someone who knows more than you or someone who will actually get you to "Just Do It" as Nike says.
     The phrase "No Pain No Gain" is something athletes and bodybuilders have been saying for years and I've said it myself. That refers to the "burn" you fee when your muscle is fatigued, or the way your body feels when you're doing an intense workout and your MIND is telling you to stop. This is very different from feeling pain in your knees when you're being told to do "step ups" on a bench so high that you need to shift all of your weight on your front knee to get up there...over and over. I'm referring to using dumbbells so heavy that every time you raise them you feel an uncomfortable pain in the joint of your shoulder. Another one of my "pet peeves" is seeing people do lunges incorrectly either in place or especially across the floor. Your front knee should never be coming in front of your toes (of the same leg), so if you can't take a big enough step forward to get your foot in front of your knee when in the down position, do NOT do them across the floor...work on proper form in a stationery position first. This same principle goes for squats. If your going down and your knees are coming way out in front of your toes, you are putting too much pressure on the joints of your knees.
     My last tip (for now) is about working your "core muscles", which refers to your midsection. If you're abdominal muscles aren't strong and your being told to hold a plank position on the floor (resting on your forearms and toes facing down with your body off the floor and straight in a line) too long, you can strain your lower back. Planks are great exercise to strengthen your back, but if you start to fatigue to the point that your back is arching and your abdomen is starting to drop to the floor, you need to stop and take a break for a few seconds.
     The same goes for doing abdominal exercises on your back...do not arch your back or you will strain it. Straight-leg raises or any other "abdominal" exercise that hurts your BACK is either improper form, or your your abdominal muscles are fatigued and your back is starting to do the work instead. When doing "crunches", your neck should stay neutral (looking up to the ceiling) and you only need to lift your shoulders off the floor to the point you feel your abdominal muscles working. It's normal in the beginning to feel your neck get tired from the weight of your head, but when it's feeling strained in the back, you need to rest a few seconds and then continue.
     A trainer is there to guide and inform you, motivate and encourage you and teach you some new ideas to keep your workouts interesting. Don't be afraid to ask for an alternative exercise if the one you're doing is causing pain to your joints, back or neck, or if you're afraid of losing your balance and falling. It is your money and you only get one body in this lifetime, so be safe.....and get "FOXY FIT"!
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