While the goal of training in the gym is frequently to look and feel better, it also represents for many the place where people can make their bodies stronger to enjoy other pursuits outside the gym.
Quality of life also includes taking the edge off of chronic pain or age-onset discomforts that can find their way into our lives at any time.
In our training center, I would estimate that over 80 percent of our clients come to us with some kind of joint discomfort or another.
While the inclination is to assign these injuries to age-related discomforts, that is often not true. Past sports injuries, diseases, accidents, surgeries and job-related injuries can often cause or even further a person's existing condition.
Even though there is not a "magic pill" that fixes injury, I have concluded that there is no reason to compromise one's complete fitness simply because of the injury to only one — or even multiple parts — of the body.
The more important part is learning to train within the limitations of injury rather than completely avoiding your fitness. Often, taking on an injury or affected joint by moving toward instead of away from resistance training with a smaller range of motion can play a significant role in managing the pain.
Below are two of the more common injuries I have observed and some of the ways they can be managed to lessen the pain.
• Low back: We spend our lives leaning forward. This is further complicated by the very few "life movements" that have us extending at our low spine. Sprinkle that with frequent sitting and buckling or collapsing at our mid-section, and we have the perfect scenario for poor development of muscles around the spine.
Therapy: Pull your belly-button inward any time you are sitting down or driving. Keep your low back pressed against the chair or seat, and try to flex your abdominal muscles (without holding your breath) for 10 or 15 second increments. Perform this as often as you can think about it throughout the day.
• Knees: The killer to knee pain is excessive bending. This can often be an absent-minded event such as squatting incorrectly to pick something up, to sitting in too deep a chair or sofa and then coming to a stand.
Therapy: Even if you haven't had therapy or surgery, the act of strengthening your quads by simply squeezing them and keeping them flexed for 10-15 second efforts at random times throughout you day can strengthen those big muscles and dampen motion through the knee joint, helping to minimize pain. Learn to put pressure through the heels when coming up from a seated position: This will activate glutes and hamstrings when standing from a seated position taking some stress off the knee. Keep in mind that you can still develop strength in the knee by minimizing the range of motion that you use to bend — even when training with weights.
Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and online at http://theflashpoint.org and http://VictorFitnessSystems.com.