When Bad Things Happen to Good Exerciser
by Dr. Kevin O’Hara of O’Hara Family Chiropractic

“There I am,” a very fit patient says, “out on my 5-mile run, motoring my way up a steep incline. Suddenly, I feel a throbbing pain in the middle of my right shin. Oh no, I think, not again.” As things turned out, the patient recovered from the shin splints1 quickly, but he knew he’d dodged a bullet. “Why did I get hurt?” he wanted to know. “I wasn’t doing anything wrong… What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” 

These are very good questions. One answer is, basically, a plan is needed for exercise— a powerful strategy to help train smart and train safe. When working this way, then you can also train hard. 

Training safe and smart means paying attention to what’s happening in your body as you do your workout. This is a learned skill that requires focus and repetition, and visualization is an important part of this focus. For example, when you’re running, visualize an erect, fluid spine and strong abdominal muscles. Your head is upright, you’re looking forward and slightly down, and your chest is open. Your arms are active, yet relaxed, and your shoulders sit comfortably on your rib cage. Visualize a long stride, a soft landing, and a strong push-off, with your leg kicking straight behind you. 

Training smart also means trusting your instincts rather than listening to your ego. This is a tough one. At the time, it seems so important to do that last rep, but can you maintain your form in the process? Form is everything. Should you sacrifice form in order to do those last few reps, you may get an unexpected, unwelcome result. Likewise in running. When your form breaks down, that’s a signal to slow down and recover your good mechanics. If training is performed with attention to proper, effective form, you’ll be more likely, when the time comes, to run a good race at a good pace. 

And of course, we want to exercise properly to maintain health and wellness. The American College of Sports Medicine2 states, “Resistance training, particularly when incorporated into a comprehensive fitness program, reduces the risk factors associated with coronary heart disease and non-insulin-dependent diabetes, prevents osteoporosis, promotes weight loss and maintenance, improves dynamic stability and preserves functional capacity, and fosters psychological well-being.” 

As in much of life, there’s a fine line between training hard and overtraining. Remember, the benefits of proper training are for the long term.

1Couture CJ, Karlson KA: “Tibial Stress Injuries: Decisive Diagnosis and Treatment of ‘Shin Splints’”. Physician and Sportsmedicine 36 (6):29-36, 2002 

2Kraemer WJ, et al: “Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults”. Med Sci Sports Exercise 34 (2):364-380, 2002

Dr. O’Hara’s office is located at 940 S. Arthur Avenue in Arlington Heights. For more information, call 847/577-3597 or visit 

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