Ramping Up For Exercise Without Injury

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No pain, no gain?

That doesn’t need to be the case when you are getting back into exercising or starting a new exercise routine.

Today we have Dr. David Tapper, a family medicine and sports medicine physician with Allina Health Faribault Clinic, who will provide us with tips on how to get back into exercising – or increase exercise – without causing injury.
Ramping Up For Exercise Without Injury
Featured Speaker:
David Tapper, MD - Family Medicine/Sports Medicine
Dr. David Tapper is a board-certified physician specializing in family medicine and sports medicine at the Allina Health Faribault Clinic. His professional interests include concussions, primary care and orthopedics.
Printable Version

Melanie Cole (Host):  Have you heard of “no pain, no gain”? Well, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case when you’re getting back into exercising or starting a new exercise routine. My guest today is Dr. David Tapper. He is a board certified physician specializing in family medicine and sports medicine at the Allina Health Faribault Clinic. Welcome to the show, Dr. Tapper. What advice do you have for people who haven’t exercised in a while but are now ready to get back into it?

Dr. David Tapper (Guest):  Well, yeah. Thanks for talking to me. The first thing that I always say is set a goal. Goals, I think, are really powerful motivators. They kind of keep us going to get some success. It could be simple. It can be a weight goal: I want to lose five pounds, 20 pounds. It can be a fitness goal: I want to run a 5K or even a marathon. But setting something gives you something to shoot for. The most important thing now with those goals is to make sure you set up realistic expectations for how long it’s going to take you to get there. I think everybody can run a 5K. I think everybody can lose 20 pounds. We just can’t do it in weeks. You always want to make sure that you plan ahead and not only set those goals but set yourself up for success by setting good expectations. 

Melanie:  That can be frustrating for people, Dr. Tapper, because if you think that you want to lose weight, you want to get ready for a 5K, how long do you think it takes to see results of some of those goals? Because that’s an increased motivator to get people exercising and keep them exercising. 

Dr. Tapper:  Absolutely. It is hard to lose weight. A lot of us are in that same boat. But when you look at what’s safe and sustainable for weight loss, you’re looking at about two pounds a month. Losing 20 to 25 pounds, that’s kind of a year plan. That seems daunting, but my recommendation is to always think about these changes, not as a one-time thing, I’m just going to lose this 20 pounds. This is a lifestyle change: I am going to change how I eat. I’m going to change how active I am for the long run. Hitting those goals along the way is a motivator, but at the end of the day, what you want to do is be healthier. 

Melanie:  That’s absolutely true. Now, what happens if someone decides they want to do that? And as you said, weight loss takes time; training for an event takes time. What if they take on too much too fast? 

Dr. Tapper:  Well, the worst thing that can happen is you quit. I do see that it’s kind of a weekend warrior mentality. You come out, you go to the buffet on Friday, you have a big blowout, you say, “Tomorrow, I’m making my change.” You got your gym membership. You work out for two hours on Saturday. You run five miles on Sunday, and you can’t walk to work on Monday. That’s defeating, because now you can’t work out for the next several days, you have problems with injuries, and then all of those milestones that you’re hoping to get to just never come. And so, you kind of get into that spiral. Then unfortunately, too often, that motivational spark that you had kind of goes away and you go back to old habits. 

Melanie:  Dr. Tapper, you mentioned injuries and wanting to prevent injuries, and some of the most common might be those chronic overuse. What do you think about people cross-training and making sure that they get something other than what it is they do all the time? 

Dr. Tapper:  Very, very important. Overuse injury is the most common thing that we all see. Basically, an overuse injury is just overstressing your body to the point that it can’t repair. Running is a real simple example. Oftentimes, when you start increasing your mileage, you get shin splints or some knee pain. If you don’t adjust, you don’t modify, shin splints can turn into stress fracture. Now, all of a sudden, that race you were going for isn’t going to happen because you can’t run for six weeks. When it comes to overuse injuries, you always have to pay attention to your body. The good thing, though, is, as you mentioned with cross-training, overuse injuries really do respond well to activity modification. If you’ve been running 15 miles a week and you’re having trouble, you go back and you run 10 miles a week and then bike 10. If you’re lifting a lot of weights, you’re having some problems with tendonitis, try something else. Go try swimming. Maybe you mix it in with jogging. But really, the key is to always make sure you’re paying attention to your body, and when you have some signs of pain, you back off, you think about what’s going on. Talk to your doctor if you have to, and make the appropriate adjustments. 

Melanie:  Dr. Tapper, are you an ice man or a heat man? If they’ve worked out particularly hard, or they’re training for an event, and they are sore, or even if they’ve gotten a little bit of an overuse injury, do you recommend heat or do you like them to ice something? 

Dr. Tapper:  I’m a whatever-feels-better guy. If you look at the data, we always have kind of thought that ice is better early and then heat late. But really, ice helps reduce pain. Just the act of the ice on your skin helps reduce pain. For some people, it’s the tightness. Heat seems to feel better on the muscles that are tight. When people ask me that question, outside of the “I just rolled my ankle” setting, I usually tell people do what feels better for you. 

Melanie:  When people are exercising, especially as these cold weather months come, Dr. Tapper, what advice do you have for working out outdoors? For a runner, it’s marathon season even right now. What advice do you have for working out when it’s a little bit colder? And if stretching is involved, do you stretch before, during, or after the activity? 

Dr. Tapper:  Well, the first part of that, when it comes to being in the cold, Minnesotans, we know how to do it well. Dress appropriately. I always think about layers. You want to have an outside layer, which is the wind blocking layer. If you are going to be just out walking, you’re also going to want to have an insulating layer inside. Finally, a water-wicking layer, a thin shirt, not cotton, that helps kind of pull water away from your body. If you’re exercising, the water on your body isn’t so bad, but if you stop or cool down, now that’s going to pull even more heat away from your body and you’re at risk for hypothermia. When it comes to stretching, I am a person who believes that you stretch if it feels good before. When it comes to reducing injury, we don’t have clear data that actually proves that stretching reduces injury. That being said, I know that as an athlete, I like to get a little stretching before I go out and do something. Everybody is a little different there, but that’s typically my advice. One other thing with the cold weather, circling back to that, is the environmental dangers in the winter are much different than in the summer. If you go out and run 4 miles in the summer, roll your ankle, you can walk back home. It’s 90 degrees out, you’re going to make it, it might take a couple of hours. In the winter, that is different. If you are out skiing in the woods and you’re five miles from your car and you roll your ankle or you sprain your knee, it is going to take you two hours to get back. That can be a problem. I always tell people to think ahead. Have a cell phone on you. If you worry about the cell phone signal, tell somebody you’re going. Tell your friends, “Hey, I am going to go ski, I’ll be back in two hours. I’ll give you a call. If you don’t hear from me, here’s where I am.” Those are just things that I like to tell people. Just think ahead in the winter. 

Melanie:  Can you give us some of your top advice for people who want to become more active? And even with all the new fitness apps out there, some of them can help people to get motivated and get involved in an exercise program when they might not have previously. 

Dr. Tapper:  Yeah, my first piece of advice is just get out there. Anything counts. We’ve been talking about marathons and stuff like that, but any amount of activity matters. Walking three times a week, parking in the back of a parking lot and just getting those extra steps in when you’re running errands, all of that stuff over time makes a difference. There are a lot of great apps out there, and the best part of all those apps is a lot of them are social. That’s not all. That’s not for everybody. But when it comes to motivation, when you start, you can add up your steps versus another group of people who are doing the same thing. It is motivating because you want to try to keep up and you just want to try to win. That is helpful for people. The other thing that I always recommend, we talked about it before, but I like setting goals. I really think that’s a good motivator. Then if you give yourself the appropriate timeline, you work with your physicians if you have problems, I think you can be successful. Again, it’s not about this 20 pounds this week or this year. For me, that’s one step along the way to lifelong health. 

Melanie:  Dr. Tapper, in just the last minute or so, where can people go if they have questions or want more information? Why should they come to Allina Health for their sports medicine care? 

Dr. Tapper:  Start with your primary care physician. Oftentimes, they can help you with a lot of these issues. If there are other questions, you have other issues, Allina has several sports medicine specialists, not only within the Twin Cities but in the outstate areas as well who can help address any of your questions, any of your needs, and help you stay healthy and safe, and hopefully accomplish those goals, get that 5K or get that marathon in. 

Melanie:  Thank you so much. It’s definitely all about setting goals. You’re listening to the WELLcast with Allina Health. For more information, you can go to allinahealth.org. That’s allinahealth.org. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening, and have a great day.