The human body, if stressed moderately through exercise and then allowed proper rest, will get stronger. This combination of stress and rest should allow the muscles and heart to become increasingly fit over time so that one may easily withstand and exceed previous fitness levels.
That being said, Wade King Student Recreation Center Fitness Coordinator Ron Arnold said it's important to remember that more isn't always better when it comes to fitness. So regardless of what Jane Fonda said in the '80s, pain isn't always gain.
“In order to avoid injury, one must progress slowly,” Arnold said. “Someone might not be active for a long time, and then all of the sudden they'll go out and jog five miles. A lot of injuries that occur from exercise, most of them in fact, are overuse injuries. Running five miles when you're not used to the exercise will cause you to overuse tissues and muscles that aren't accustomed to that kind of mileage.”
In order to avoid overuse injuries, one needs to recognize the difference between pain and soreness.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), soreness tends to show up one to two days after a workout and usually goes away after a few minutes of warm-up and stretching. Pain, on the other hand, is usually a sharper, more focused type of hurt that tends to get worse with additional stress.
Arnold said the best way to avoid injury is to pay attention to your body. Remember that any new fitness endeavor should be undertaken slowly.
The ACSM recommends that all exercise sessions include a time to warm up and to cool down. Jogging and stretching are easy means of warming up and cooling down. Both, however, should be done at a fairly low intensity in which maintaining a conversation would be comfortable. If breathing becomes strenuous, tone it down bit.
Of course, you could be the most cautious person in the world and still fall victim to a freak injury. Two weeks ago, I was at Boulevard Park on a gorgeously clear afternoon, playing a low-key game of Frisbee and feeling great—that is, until I pivoted awkwardly in the grass and CRACK!—my left knee dislocated and I crumpled to the ground.
My first thought (after “Oh $%#@! This really hurts!”) was to get myself to a doctor, which Arnold later assured me was the right thing to do.
“You don't know whether or not you've broken a bone or torn a tendon, especially if you've never injured yourself before. You're going to feel quite a bit of pain and experience a lot of swelling,” he said. “So how do you know if the injury is serious? It's really smart to go seek medical attention specifically from a doctor.”
If you find yourself injured like I did, the best way to reduce further injury and expedite the healing process is by using the RICE procedure: rest, ice, compression and elevation.
REST because when you have damaged tissue anywhere in your body, you don't want to further the damage with additional stress. It's best to take it easy and rest the injury as much as possible.
ICE acts as a pain reliever and restricts blood flow to the injury, which prevents swelling. Use a cloth-covered ice pack at least five times per day for no more than 15 minutes at a time.
COMPRESSION also keeps the swelling from accumulating in an injured area, reducing pain and the time it will take to recover from an injury. Wrap the injured area with a bandage, being careful not to wrap so tightly that blood flow is cut off.
ELEVATION is done by raising the injured area above the level of the heart, and is another step that prevents the swelling.
These four steps, if taken immediately after an injury is sustained, can relieve pain and reduce swelling.
Fortunately, the damage to my knee wasn't serious and I'm able to walk normally again. If you find yourself injured in similar manner (i.e., sharp pain), get yourself to a doctor as soon as possible. Call the Student Health Center at (360) 650-3400 to make an appointment.