Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Prevent From All Going Downhill

Even if your main focus is to "lose weight", a huge part of your focus must also be in preventing injuries, preventing the development of chronic pain, and preventing re-aggravation of past injuries. These problems can prevent you from the simplest physical activities and throw you off-track perpetually. As a result of being thrown off, you could enter a negative spiral of incremental weight gain and various possible chronic conditions. Therefore, being conscious of prevention of injuries, pains, and problems is important for long-lasting weight-loss and fitness.

I had a client in the past, Jane, who was borderline obese in her late 60’s when I first trained her. She had a lower back condition and chronic knee problems. (She was cleared by her doctor to start exercising again, but she still have pains.) Merely walking was painful for her knees and her lower back. Walking up and down the stairs were painful for her. According to her, she used to be in great shape years ago. However, Jane began having injuries from improper training and postural distortions over a long period of time. Because of the pain and injuries, she had to stop exercising which paradoxically further contributed to her pains and physical problems. (There may have been other contributors to her physical problems also. When she decided to exercise again, she hired personal trainers who were not knowledgeable about injury prevention and postural distortions (as many personal trainers are not, unfortunately). She went through about three trainers before me. They trained this overweight woman in her sixties with chronic knee and back problems as if they’re training a twenty-something athlete.  (The general concept in such cases is to gradually work your way up, but most trainers don't do this for business reasons, as shown when Jane said, "The intense training felt great and I was losing weight.  Too bad I started having all these problems.")

Consequently, their inappropriate training contributed to the worsening of Jane's physical ailments. Despite having quick weight loss, it didn’t last because her back and knee problems were exacerbated from the rigorous exercises with no emphasis on correction and rehabilitation (and other necessary precautions were not taken). As a result, she entered this negative spiral of incremental pain and weight gain.

As her knee problems and back pains became worse, she had to discontinue her training. Jane would probably have been better off not having those previous personal trainers who probably focused more on marketing their services than the long term well-being of the client. Jane's body was a mess by the time I saw her for the first time. At that point, she was in this catch-22 where she needed more physical activity than anyone because of her weight. However, most exercises would exacerbate the pre-existing damage in her knees and lower back which would result in immobilizing her and cause further weight gain in the long run.

Although this is one of the worst cases that I’ve seen, it is not uncommon for one to enter a similar negative spiral. To prevent from getting into the same predicament, you must devote some focus on prevention such as proper warm-up and stretching (such as those taught in NASM-CES courses for trainers and health professionals), strengthening your core, and training with all the necessary components such as cardio, flexibility, strength, prioception, and neuromuscular control.

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