“I went for a run a little while ago and picked up an injury. I’d worked up gradually to jogging for 30-minutes. On this particular day I was aiming for a very specific 33-minute run.
Unfortunately I chose a route that I didn’t know. I missed a footpath and became aware that I was running(!) late for the school run(!!)
I wound up having to run much faster and for longer than usual. Forty-five minutes later I arrived at the school gates. Lo & behold, the following morning a common running injury made itself depressingly apparent and I moped through breakfast knowing precisely the reasons and mechanism behind my aching body parts.”
This injury method applies to just about any activity – gardening, walking, sky-diving, golf, Zumba, Cross-fit, x, y or z. It has the slightly fancy name of:
I’m going to use two examples to illustrate this; the ‘jars of oats’ example and the ‘graph’ example.
Everyone has a current level of fitness. THINK OF YOUR FITNESS AS A GLASS JAR.
The current size of your jar is determined by HOW FIT YOU ARE NOW. This jar size is flexible. It GROWS in size as you get fitter and SHRINKS in size as you become less fit.
Your and my jars probably look something like JAR A. For comparison, Mo Farah’s jar will more closely resemble JAR MO.
The amount of exercise that you currently do is represented by the VOLUME OF THE CONTENTS OF YOUR JAR. For ease and to make clean-up easier than if I used syrup (my son’s suggestion) I’ve used oats.
If you keep your oats (amount of exercise) contained within your jar (current level of fitness) you shouldn’t run into problems and injuries. You’re sticking with what your body is capable of and can comfortably manage. TO MAINTAIN YOUR CURRENT LEVEL OF FITNESS YOU NEED TO KEEP YOUR JAR APPROXIMATELY FULL BUT NOT OVERFLOWING.
If you try to put too many oats into your jar, your jar will OVERFLOW.
But remember that the SIZE OF YOUR JAR IS FLEXIBLE: if you’re very gradually increasing your oat volume i.e. upping your exercise amounts gradually, then your jar will GRADUALLY INCREASE IN SIZE to be able to hold more oats and will scoop up the few spilt ones as you go (otherwise how would we ever get fitter?) We’ll all have to go some to be as (running) fit as Mo Farah but, with a definite fitness increase, our jars might more closely resemble JAR B.
BUT if you try to cram too many oats in too soon, your jar won’t be able to expand quickly enough to contain the oats.
UN-CONTAINED OAT OVERFLOW EQUALS LIKELY PAIN AND INJURY – you’ve exceeded what your body can cope with. This is exactly what I did when I ran too fast for 45 minutes – I was only really capable of running for 30-33 minutes at a slower pace.
And if your fitness level has decreased – WHICH IT DOES WHEN WE DO LESS EXERCISE, be this due to age, injury, change of routine, going on holiday, laziness, lack of time or discipline – then correspondingly the SIZE OF YOUR JAR WILL DECREASE (JAR C). The volume of oats that you can now fit into your jar will be less than previously.
Below are two graphs which show in a different way what is described in Example One.
Notice that for the person that these graphs relate to, their ‘normal manageable’ includes being able to run 2 miles and jump from a 2m height (though note that the latter is close to the limit of their abilities).
But once they have shrunk their jar/fitness level, the curve that separates the manageable from the excessive changes position: the load and frequency of the exercise that they can safely manage have both decreased. For them, running 2 miles and jumping from a 2m height now falls outside of the manageable and becomes excessive. And notice that a 4 mile run always was excessive!
In this case, because we push our bodies beyond their envelop of function – our jar of oats overflows.
Work within your limits – your envelope / jar volume. Don’t push your training beyond what your body can cope with and you will stay injury-free.
Exercise is dead important for contributing positively to your quality of life (as I’ve previously discussed here and here). We should all be doing some and many of us should be doing more. So whatever your exercise tipple, if you’re introducing or increasing exercise, do so GRADUALLY.
There’s an internet-full of exercise advice, ideas and information out there – what to do and how to do it. And us Physio’s are a great source of knowledge, not just for when you do get injured (though I hope you don’t!) but also when it comes to how best to manage your exercise and avoid injury.