Category Archives: Injury

When exercise doesn’t feel good: 6 reasons why and how to overcome them

Sometimes exercise doesn’t feel good. If you are like me, I exercise for a release. But what happens when that release or elevated state after exercise doesn’t occur? What if it is just the opposite?

I recently did an online class with my favorite instructor.  But I will admit, I wasn’t feeling it.   Until we got to the side leg lifts.  More on that later.  Maybe it was because I had a kink in my neck that was distracting me, and a resolving shoulder tendinitis on the opposite side. I was in a bit of a funk. Probably even before I started. I left class on a neutral to grumpy note. I didn’t experience my usual lightness of being.  My focus was also a little scattered with concerns unrelated to the class.

Let’s start with the obvious:

1: Pain or injury. Sometimes we can manage to do what we like to do despite a little niggling irritation or pain. Sometimes after exercising that discomfort is gone. But sometimes its worse. If you are in the habit of feeling more pain after exercise, you are doing the wrong thing. Switch your intention to releasing versus tensing. Go “loosey goosey”(credit : Essentrics). Go through the range of motion without visiting the painful limits. This may be enough to nudge you back into balance.

The other thing is try something completely different. Give that unhappy area some relative rest. Do an activity that focuses on another area of the body (stationary cycling instead of upper body activities for a shoulder injury). Focus on ideal postures and positions for the area involved. If you can’t figure it out, consult with someone who should know how to approach injury and exercise.

The exercise itself may not be the reason for your pain. It could very well be how you spend your day (sitting, slouching?) that is the main contributing factor to your malaise. Start paying to attention to more of what hurts and what helps. This may inform you as to what activities may be beneficial and what is harmful.

2. Illness. if you are sick, you are sick. Some of us know when we are about to get sick. This is the time to back off so your body can focus its energy on your immune response. Taxing your body at this time is a bad idea. It doesn’t mean you can’t take a short walk, if you are truly up for it. You still need to move but bring it down several notches so nature can take its course, getting you better sooner than later.

3. Self criticism. Sometimes we enter into exercise with a less than positive attitude. Find the spaces where you know you have felt uplifted before. If you are just getting started, can you create or find an environment where you feel the desire to thrive? Where can you find some positive encouragement for your efforts? Try not to compare yourself to others, even if just for the next 20 minutes. Be present for your own benefit.

4. Over training / overexertion. This is again where the ego’s desires exceed the physical ability or capacity. Yes, you may have run a marathon, but the boot camp isn’t a run-a-thon, so take yourself through new activities with several ounces of caution. What’s the hurry? What’s the point of exercising beyond your tissues’ limits?

I like exercise that I can sustain everyday. I no longer want to train so I can barely walk the following day or two. It depends on what your goals are. If you are directing your efforts towards a specific goal, are you starting from a base level of fitness or are you starting from square one? A different approach will be required for each circumstance

Overtraining can lead to chemical imbalances that can can be more destructive than constructive (long term elevation of cortisol) , leaving you feeling lousy instead of energized.

5. Not enough fuel/water/sleep.

Fuel. We need food to maintain our basic human processes. If we are exercising, we need more. This doesn’t mean you should eat the McDonald’s cheeseburger because you ran for 1.5 hours. Look at what you eat and drink as your building blocks to success. Not eating enough to sustain your activities may result in increased cortisol levels and decreased recovery.

If you are pairing exercise with reduced food intake for weight loss, try not to be too extreme. Look for the nutrient dense food (aka healthy) so your body gets what it needs. Cut out the junk food. We can eat crappy food on occasion when we are fitness focused. But feeling dizzy during exercise because you haven’t eaten or drank enough shouldn’t be an option.

Water. I don’t derive a lot of pleasure from drinking water. I feel the same about eating green vegetables but at least my body recognizes that they are important and sometimes craves them. Water? I am rarely thirsty and hate the taste. I just know I need water. So I try to choke down a a cupful or two during exercise. I use a cup instead of a bottle for easier access.

Sleep. If you didn’t sleep at all the night before, should you be doing that morning routine? Sleep is a tough one if your are having trouble finding it. If you like to keep your exercise schedule regular, switch up your workout that day and try something calming or meditative. Maybe do a light stretching routine. Get in tune with yourself instead of maxing out that day.

6. You are too hot or too cold. This is very important but often overlooked. I am guilty of this, having noted my ability to overheat seems more likely than ever before. Peri-menopausal? We need to exercise at a temperature that allows us to cool off when needed, and to be warm enough to encourage soft tissue extensibility.

I am particularly sensitive when it comes to my feet and ankles. I think that I have beaten up my tender tootsies one too many times. The result is that I can’t function well with cold feet. It hurts. If it’s cold, dress warmly. Move around gently in anticipation of more complex movements later in the workout.

To summarize:

Getting on the fitness train isn’t as difficult as staying on the train. I think if you focus on the big picture, and keep reminding yourself that it is a constantly evolving process, you will have more reasonable expectations. You will judge yourself less if you don’t follow through on the exact prescription you created for yourself that day. Accept the reality that movement will result in a healthier and longer life. Daily small successes are way better than none at all.

If I am in pain, I need to modify. If I am sick, I have to take it easier. If I am sad, I have to give myself a mental break. If I am unrealistic, I have to redefine ground zero or reconsider what level of elevation I am aiming for. If I am too cold or hot, I bring on the layers or expose a little more skin.

All of these perceived barriers have answers. No need to struggle. Just be a little better than yesterday or just maintain your gains. You are in charge. Ask for help if you need it. You are stronger than you think (credit: favorite fitness instructor).

Essentrics with Andrea

COVID and Jogging in the city: the pros and cons

Jogging in the city is definately an option. It really does push the body, increasing your heartrate and improving your cardiovascular fitness. It can increase the strength and endurance of your lower body, but really involves the entire body to some degree. It doesn’t require much more than a pair of shoes and requires little to no planning. You can easily vary the intensity and frequency. It can include others if you choose. It can make you feel stronger and more energetic. It can give you an endorphin high and zen like focus. It gets you outdoors and into nature.

But I will have to say, in the early stages of the COVID era it appeared that everyone including their dog and their cat were out jogging. At one point the streets of Toronto were rampant with joggers! No joke.

“Might as well go for a jog”. I remember feeling that way a very long time ago.  Actually, about 25 years ago.  When I was younger and my joints were more resilient to effects of pounding the pavement.  My reasons were I wanted to get fit.  Superfit to be exact.  Jogging can get you there. Lose fat.  Increase tone. A run could shake off whatever negative stuff I was feeling, and yes, I benefited from the endorphin high.  That was a given.

But then I might see several patients in pain as a result of running, and they couldn’t stop. My job was to help them mediate the balance between regeneration and degeneration. I have pushed myself to my own physiological limits several times in the past. A more calculated and reflective approach is now needed to stay clear of injury.

Back to the COVID jogging phenomenon. I will note that the volume of joggers on the streets has dwindled with the re-opening of gyms, and people likely returning to work, changes in schedules, etc. But now that the gyms are closed again, I am wondering if the jogging population will rise yet again?

Winter is also coming. Toronto sidewalks in general are not that great in terms of snow and ice clearance, so where are you going to take this jogging phase?

With the first round of COVID, there were actually fewer people on the streets, so there was indeed more space for the increase in joggers. Now we are essentially back to normal street capacity so it might get busy! Watch yourselves!

I have already been re-evaluating my COVID exercise routine. I think I may spend more time learning and creating new Essentrics routines or something similar of my own, with a strong emphasis on music. I have also been focusing on accomplishing true HIIT routines now that I have a heart rate monitor.

Just keep moving. The more variety you have to choose from the more likely you will keep up a physical routine, regularly. Having options already built in is great. Just think about the bends in the road that are no doubt going to present themselves (including the ice and snow). Have your back up plan ready so you don’t loose the momentum you’ve created.

Onward and upward!

Cheers joggalicious movers! See you on the street! 

Essentrics with Andrea

Exercise and injury and why I exercise

Why I exercise

I have been not sedentary for my entire life.  This doesn’t mean that I have been running around in circles but almost.  I can’t sit still.  But where does this come from.  Anxiety, nervousness, boredom?

When I do move, whether it is intentional or not, it distracts me, redirects my mind, allows my thoughts to wander OR if it is intentional, I have almost 100% of the time felt some sort of release following exercise, both physically and mentally.

While exercising/moving I get to zone in on my body and zone out of any current mental pre-occupations.

One of the things I like about exercise the most is the kinesthetic feedback I get from my body.  I like the feeling of a good muscle contraction, control over the limb involved, and the resting tone that remains after.

I am very aware of when I have some new soreness, swelling, bump or other various body asymmetries come up.  My hands are just drawn to the area and then voila!, There is something there.  Gratefully never serious.

When I do have pain, I can usually deal with it and complain very little on the outside.  On the inside I do get irritated especially if it lasts a little longer that I anticipated, resolving slower than expected.  I don’t ever lose the hope that it will get better.

Getting a taste of your own medicine…..

Exercise and injury

I actually sprained my ankle on a Thursday many weeks ago.  It was simply from running across the street and turning my ankle over on the streetcar track.  Initially, I knew I was injured but I could still walk.  The limp reduced over the next several steps but I had to walk very consciously and with awareness the rest of the way.  It was not until the end of the day, as my ankle swelled and the pain increased, that I realized this was not a mild sprain and would preclude my exercise activities.

So I did something out the ordinary for me.  I asked for help to cover my Essentrics class the following evening and I spent that evening and the next with my foot elevated with intermittent icing.  I taped my ankle for work and sat as much as possible during my workday.  The relative rest really helped.  By the second morning following the sprain, I noted further improvement in my range of motion and continued to rest it for the day.  I decided that I would be able to teach my Sunday morning Essentrics class, with taping and a few modifications.  I made it through the class with some mild arch pain that subsided over the course of the day.  I continued to tape it daily until it is fully resolved to prevent accidental re-injury.

So I was amazed at the effect of REST.  Historically, I have had multiple sprains, but rarely if ever, reduced my activity level to promote healing.  I usually just kept up with the maximum level activity possible, allowed pain and swelling to occur, and waited several weeks for the strain to resolve.  This time, I continued on a moderate path, of relative rest (not walking to work, not stationary cycling and not teaching my usual number of classes). 

The benefits of relative rest shouldn’t be a big surprise to me, but despite my knowledge, I am like many people, who tough it out, thinking that less is not better.   I don’t like to bring attention to myself, and frequently suffer quietly under wraps.  I am not exactly sure exactly where that pattern has stemmed from but ultimately, I am on a new path, to a more sustainable body, hence Sustainablebod.ca has birthed itself as my perspectives, knowledge, and desire to maintain a healthy ‘older’ body has come to the forefront more than ever. 

Take your number one reason for exercising and think about where you are now and where you want to be.   Are you already there?  Do you need to maintain or improve?  Is it an emotional, physical, physiological or cognitive reason for exercising? Is it realistic?  Maybe you just want to have fun? 

Wherever you are on your fitness journey there will be many moments when you question yourself.

For example, why am I doing this and should I be doing this now?  Is there something else I should be doing in addition to what I am doing? Is this enough?  Is it too much?  Why is my (insert body part) hurting?  It really is not that easy to know how much you need,  how often and what type of movement is best for you.  It no doubt will be an ongoing process of re-evaluation.  There is no one size fits all.

But I am almost positive that if you begin with the less complex activity as a starting point you will likely find something that is useful and safe to do.  When your goals become clearer the path should also become clearer.  It can be a fun ride if you don’t get hung up on details.  Unless you have already done it before.  But even then, bodies and circumstances change.

My suggestion is to be willing to question but don’t let these questions stop you from deciding to move.  Its always better to have completed the simplest of tasks than nothing at all.  You can’t reflect unless you have recent up to date experiences to reflect on.  Give yourself some new information to work with.  And that information comes from your body and your experience inside it.  

Essentrics with Andrea