Strengthen Ligaments, Tendons and Muscles, Too!

09/03/2013

Ask a busy mom what it takes to get in shape and she’ll say something like you need to workout and eat right. Sounds simple enough right? The reality is that overall fitness is a tricky thing. You can do all the right things like work out consistently and eat well and still be on the road to future problems. There are some subtle yet powerful fitness dos and don’ts that can either help you feel better or stifle your progress. In today’s post I’ll discuss my top three tips to keep you in tip-top shape.

Tip #1: Work Your Tendons and Ligaments.

Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of ligament or tendon conversations unless you tune into ESPN and get the latest professional player’s injury report. Athletes and regular folks need strong ligaments to help with joint stability and strong tendons to help muscles produce force. An action as simple as lifting grocery bags or reaching to help your kid open a snack bag can cause problems especially if you don’t train the muscles around a joint.

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Make sure to stretch before and after exercising!

According to Dr. Nicholas A. DiNubile author of the book Framework, imbalances in strength, flexibility, or both can be a major setup for bone and joint problems. Elbow and knee problems are often the result of re-injuries, incomplete rehabilitation, or not-so-great exercise form. Left unaddressed and your next tennis game can result in an injury that takes longer to heal. Balancing exercises are ideal for ligament strength. For example, after you’ve mastered a two-arm lateral shoulder raise, try the same exercise on one leg (drop the weight or do without weights). Changing this exercise ever so slightly can help improve your joints.

Tip #2: Don’t train hard everyday.

This is a common mistake folks make with exercise -- they workout hard every day at a super high intensity. When you’re in your 20s, this may work for you especially if you have more time and energy. However, as you get older training hard everyday may result in overtraining, an elevated resting heart rate, and decreased performance.

A recent study cited by Science Daily showed that moderate exercise was better for tendons over higher impact exercises. So if you go on a long run one day, try swimming or taking a Pilates class the next day. By changing your exercise intensity you allow for optimal joint lubrication, improved blood flow, and a better recovery period. 

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To avoid getting injured, give yourself enough recovery time between workouts.
Tip #3: Make recovery a priority.

It’s important to build in recovery time from your workouts and there’s plenty of research that supports this notion. Dr. Len Kravitz and Jonathan Mike from the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque) discuss the importance of recovery time during and after exercise.

The next time you complete an intense exercise session, use the next day to rest. This can include a stretching class, low-intensity walk, or taking the day off completely. The point is to allow your body to recover at the cellular level and this takes time. As women age, it may take longer to recover between hard workouts, so an extra day may be needed. Most importantly, listen to your body and plan accordingly.

Optimal joint health, changing exercise intensity, and prioritizing recovery time is better for your body. Avoid getting caught up in the trends of daily hard-core workouts. Think about your training regimen and ask yourself if it is sustainable. Can you do this for the long haul? Do you feel better or worse? Do you allow your body a proper recovery period?

Make sure you do the right things and don’t do the activities that slow you down over time.  Figure out what works for your body and stick to it!

As a 4-time mom, I understand the many demands and challenges that come with raising a family and trying to get or stay fit. I've developed programs for pre-conception, pregnancy and post-pregnancy as well as preparing for and recovering from challenges like medical procedures.
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