I got asked to write this article / blog by a magazine editor who thought that I was the man to write about being diagnosed with such things as arthritis, fibromyalgia and other inflammatory & degenerative conditions. My reply was that I’d rather not write about any condition but, I’d rather write about how you can get up and going with such conditions and enjoy a better quality of life. I’m not the expert on the conditions – I have however helped many who suffer with them and help improve strength, have a better quality of life, maintain a great exercise habit, and improve body composition.
Having a good understanding of how the body responds to load and stress and educating and supporting the clients on how to manage these is the key here. I can’t help but acknowledge that it’s this kind of thing which gives me the biggest buzz as a coach.
“Good Stress + Good Rest = Results”
You’ve got to move
80% of the time when prospective clients call me they tell me that they’ve been told they shouldn’t exercise. “You’ll never run again,” “Avoid squatting,” “Avoid the gym for three weeks.” Who has the right to tell you not to move? And do the people giving out this advice think of the effect this has on the client? Surely we should be encouraging movement? Telling clients to stop doing exercise has a huge impact on the client’s perception of exercise and undermines the immense importance of regular movement. Generally this creates a fear of exercise and movement.
In the acute stage of a condition or rehabilitation there may well be limitations or a few things you shouldn’t try but, these need to be presented to the clients in a clear way with structure and advice on what you can do. We also need to be told when to start doing things – something that gets forgotten or assumed. We need to look at the bigger picture; exercise may well make a joint a bit painful but what about the benefit it brings to the body and mind as a whole?? Check with your health care team (GP etc) for clarification on what you can and can’t do relative to your condition.
Below are a few tips I use daily with my clients. I can’t give specific advice as everyone’s different but try different things and see what works for you.
How do I know what to do?
Above all else, pain will soon tell us if we’re doing something wrong –that’s what it’s there for. Don’t take this as you can’t do anything. We’ve got to outwit the body by trying other movements / modes of exercise. The real art here is identifying exactly what exercise or movement is causing the pain – it’s normally just one or maybe two things. Staying positive when this happens can be tough but, with this identified and taken out of your program we can then hopefully get going with consistent exercise and build strength.
We’re looking to build ‘work capacity’ while not increasing any inflammatory response in the body. Remember exercise is a stress. Dependant on the amount, this can be good or bad – it’s a fine balance and one you must learn if you’re to be successful. Be patient and start your regime with a “little and often approach” – maybe daily 15 minute sessions rather than say three sessions a week of 45 minutes. Maybe alternating a cardiovascular session (Walk,Swim,Run) with a quick strength training session). Be honest with your starting point and be patient. Slowly, slowly catchy monkey!
Keep a record of your feelings and energy levels after your sessions. Over time you will learn to identify trends in what you can and can’t do as well as highlight areas where you will be more confident to progress on. If there’s a mode of exercise that you can get a higher intensity exercises then great – I like to find ways clients can get that great feeling.
Strength TrainingFinding the right exercise to limit pain and maximise results is essential.
I find slow controlled strength training movements an excellent option. This maximises the time under tension of the muscles that need working while minimising joint stress – if chosen well. Our aim is to get as many of the fundamental movements as possible into your program. Such exercises as Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges, Pushing and Pulling will have a great carryover to improving your quality of life.
Quick tips on how to get going in the gym
- Start by identifying what exercises you can do pain free
- Try Bodyweight Squats, Lunges, Deadlifts / Swings, Push Up and a Pulling exercise
- If painful, try other versions of the same exercise EG ball squat rather than Goblet Squat?
- Put pain free exercises into a program maybe alternating lower body / upper body
- Start with low volume – maybe 2 sets of 10 reps at a slow controlled tempo.
- Record feelings /any discomfort after each session
- If in discomfort reflect on the session and identify one exercise that you feel may be the culprit?
- Try workout again without selected exercise? How did it go?
- Repeat the above process until you’ve got a pain free, enjoyable program!
Remember – Motion is lotion!
Don’t be deterred easily, there will be a program you can do. Good luck and I hope the above has really helped you. Feel free to get in touch if we can help.