Fitness: Over-training and common athletic injuries

If you’ve been following my fitness journey, you know that I’ve struggled with weight loss and weight gain most of my life. I won’t bore you with the details again. But the reason that I’m on this path again is due to an injury from over training back in 2012-2013. My knee popped again on a mountain hike – and thus my new found love for mountain hiking was over. El finito. I was done.

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Just look at those majestic mountains. I am pushing myself to get back into shape because I miss hiking. I miss travel. I miss being outdoors. But I’m so scared that I’ll crack my knee again. I am also itching to get my camera out again and get back into photography. I feel like I’ve wasted the last three years of my life. Time I won’t get back. But everything seems to be more difficult now that I’m older. There are days where everything just hurts.

That year that I re-tore my knee, I was lying in bed and felt it pop again. For five minutes – my knee wouldn’t go back into place. And for those five minutes, I thought I was dying. The pain was surreal. I almost passed out. I wasn’t ready for that hike. I had pushed myself too far and it ended with devastating results. It was a 10km and I was on my own. I’m just grateful I made it back to the ranch safely with a bum knee.

Take a look at these photos. From a hike I did with my friend Bev and her husband Art in 2012. It was in Jasper and this was the Valley of the Five Lakes. I will share more of my photos soon.

Here’s another picture from the base of Sulphur Mountain. I couldn’t do the 22km hike. The elevation killed me. I spent the day on the base of the mountain and enjoyed the views.

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Jen Christensen

Over training is a real concern and can result in injuries

Yes. You can injure yourself – and badly – if you push your body too far, too fast.

Over the years, I’ve been a member of many online fitness groups. There has been some arguing back and forth on this subject. Can you over-train? Can you injure yourself by doing too much? Is over-training real? Or is it a myth?

A quick google search just told me that “over-training injuries” are musculoskeletal injuries that occur due to more activity or exercise than your body is used to.

So yes – don’t let anyone tell you that over-training isn’t a thing. Because there are a lot of people out there who have injured themselves from pushing it themselves too far.

In most cases, at least from people that I’ve spoken to, the two most common problems with over-training is general fatigue and soreness. Some runners will call this – the onset of “DOMS.” But runners often push themselves to get that endorphin rush. You know the feeling. It’s a feeling of pure bliss. And it’s highly addicting.

What are endorphins?

According to Dictionary.com – endorphins is a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides which activate the body’s opiate receptions causing an analgesic effect.

In short, it makes you high as… well, you know. Pretty damn high. The endorphin high is addicting and there are more ways to achieve the high – not just from sports or over-training.

Sex can also give you the same high with the right person. You may have even felt it after a good romp in the sack with your partner, but you had no idea what you were feeling. Or maybe you crashed the next day and cried for no apparent reason.

If you’ve experienced this after a fun night of sex – it’s possible you’ve felt what runners feel. The endorphin high.

But the problem with the highs – is the extreme lows. If you don’t care for yourself properly. And remember – it’s very addicting.

I was addicted to the endorphin rush for many years and it led me to some bad relationship choices. I won’t go into details here but it was my drug. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink a lot. I never did illegal drugs. This rush – this biological induced rush was one of the greatest things I had ever experienced. I craved it.

The first time I experienced the endorphin high – it was the trippiest night of my life. I also had one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had. But what happened the next day – scared me. Because I had NO idea what was happening. I crashed. I cried. It was terrifying how quickly my mood changed. I was like a completely different person.

Crash and burn – the ‘come down’

The key thing to remember here is that after an endorphin high – you need to re-fuel your body. Food is fuel. Drink plenty of water and electrolytes. Eat protein. Lots of protein. Your body will thank you for it. A good hot bath with some bath salts will help tremendously. And make sure to get a good night’s sleep.

Remember – I’m not a doctor. Just someone who has experienced this a lot in my life. I’m hoping others will learn from my mistakes. Cooking bacon and walking away from it in the dead of winter on a -30C night is not a great idea. I was “stoned” out of my tree on endorphins and nearly burned my apartment down. Lessons learned. Many lessons learned.

Let’s back up for a moment and go back to DOMS. What are DOMs, you ask? That’s a great question. And no, this isn’t a post about the movie 50 Shades of Grey (or is it?)

The term DOMS as I learned from fitness experts around the globe, refers to muscle soreness.

person wearing pair of gray nike running shoes
Photo by Mohammad Danish on Pexels.com

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

DOMS are defined by Wikipedia as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Some people feel DOMS right after a workout. Sometimes it takes a few days to feel the burn. Exercises like squats, crunches, lunges, lifting weights or running can “bring on the DOMS.”

While DOMS aren’t technically considered an injury, they can set your training routine back a few days if not properly cared for. If ignored, it can lead to strains – which you definitely do not want. Or worse. An injury that may never heal.

Muscle Cramping

DOMS are not the same as muscle cramping which you can also experience after a hard workout. For cramps, you can try eating bananas (rich in potassium) or drinking a smoothie rich in protein and with milk. Potassium is your friend. Cramping can be a result from not drinking enough water. To avoid this, drink plenty of water during your workouts. Staying hydrated is key – especially in warm summer months.

Take a rest day – it won’t kill you

Listen to your body. When it cries out in pain and says “enough” — it’s time for a rest day. Or rest week depending on how hard you’ve been training.

Legg, Runner, Run, Sports, Fitness, Exercise, Healthy

(from Pixabay)

Common types of injuries & strains

Common muscle injuries sprains (check), tears (check), sciata (check), shin splints, and the light goes on. I’ve had more than my share of injuries.

For me, my worst injury was a torn ligament. This is a common injury that you see in sports like football and hockey. More recently and more famously, you may have heard that Connor McDavid, from my home team (Yes, I still cheer them boys on) had a bad injury in their last game of the 2019 series. I missed the game. But I watched the replay after.

And oh boy.

When I saw Connor’s knee hit the net – I felt that familiar twinge in my own knee. I knew it was going to be bad. And I knew exactly what the injury was going to be – a blown out knee. In other words, a torn knee. Or dislocated knee in some cases.

Sometimes it’s better to actually get a clean break than it is a torn knee. Why? Because if you don’t get the proper care you need, as in months of rehab and physical therapy, plus medication and massage – later on in life, you will be more than likely to develop things like arthritis. I speak from experience. I have the knees of a 60 year old.

Here’s McDavid crashing into the net. I mean, it looks bad. Really freaking bad. It’s been debated by thousands of hockey fans on Twitter on whether or not McDavid broke his knee. You can clearly see him say something like “It’s broke” or “It’s bad.”

I have every hope that McDavid will be back on the ice next season. Because we really need him. He’s only 22! He’s not ready to be “done” yet.

 

Hypermobility can cause injuries too

My mum used to joke that I had a football injury when she helped me hobble on my crutches into the doctor’s office. I had more ankle sprains than most professional athletes out there get. It’s all because of this thing called Hyper-mobility. It causes joints to weaken over time and they just crap out on you. Like my knee for no apparent reason.

My doctor in the eighties described it as “shupple knees” – I’m still convinced he made that term up. I can’t find it listed anywhere. Must have been a British thing.

If you’re not careful with torn ligaments and other knee injuries, and don’t manage your weight – you will wind up like me. An early forties woman with knees that crunch and crack whenever I get out of bed in the morning.

Here’s a Youtube compilation on some of the worst knee injuries. That is if you can stomach it. I’m dying here. My knee is actually throbbing as I watch. But that might be from the forty minutes I spent on my cycle earlier. Not to mention the 30 minutes of crunches, squats, and lunges I did. The DOMS have already settled in.

Oh, I can’t watch this anymore. It hurts. It hurts.

To wrap this up, since I’m at 1500 words already – I’ll leave you with some tips on how to care for DOMS at home.

You’ve probably heard this one before. But a lot of athletes swear by it. This comes from surveying 9000+ people in a fitness group that I run online. I’m just a moderator who boots out the bad guys and promotes healthy living. But I’ve learned a lot in my time.

REST, HEAT, ELEVATION

REST is important when it comes to a strain or an injury. Depending on how bad your injury is, your doctor may tell you to get plenty of rest for a few days – or maybe even weeks. If you’re overdoing it – you definitely want to take at least a couple of rest days.

If you prefer to keep active every day – then at least switch focus and try different kinds of exercises. If you’ve torn a ligament, you want to be very careful. You could hit the swimming pool or try low impact workouts like a chair workout. But in my opinion, the best thing for a torn ligament is rest and physio therapy.

If you have a sprain (very swollen and tender ankle for example), then your best bet is rest, a heating pad and elevation until the swelling goes down. Take care when you walk on it. You don’t want to re-injure yourself. If the swelling doesn’t go down after a few days – please, please, please – see a doctor.

Remember – it’s always best to seek out professional consultation from a doctor on this. A doctor is better equipped to diagnose injuries with Xrays or scans. An injury like a torn ligament will most likely require physical therapy.

I’m sharing this video because it’s a little entertaining.

I have a funny story about seeing a rheumatologist. He was convinced that I had fibromyalgia. This was after my tragic hiking accident. I didn’t agree. I think it was just arthritis pain from repeated injuries. But when I stood up from the chair in his office and my knee crunched, the look on his face. It was priceless. He was a lot like the doctor in this video.

“Does it do that EVERY day?” he asked me.

“So, that’s a bad thing?” I said with a wry smile.

Heat or Ice Therapy?

There is some argument back and forth about whether you should use heat or ice on your strains or injuries. For swelling, I’ve always preferred to use a compression/tension wrap and a heating pad. Sometimes a hot bath would be enough for me. But the main thing for swelling is elevation. Making sure your feet are above your head as you lie down is crucial.

Oh my goodness. This intro – it killed me. I have to share this video. I often refer to youtube when I want a quick reference. These two are a hoot.

SUMMARY

To summarize, ‘ll give you a quick recap what I’ve shared today, so you don’t have to reread all 2000 words of this article.

  • DOMS are the onset of muscle soreness that can be treated with rest, heat or ice therapy, a hot bath, and a good massage.
  • ENDORPHIN RUSH is a chemically induced high that one can experience from running, having sex, or from pain. Drinking lots of water, electrolytes, eating protein and getting rest, will help prevent the lows and crashes.
  • CONNOR MCDAVID will recover and will be back to play next season. The Oilers will make the playoffs. I’m calling it now. We can hope.
  • TORN LIGAMENTS and SPRAINS are common injuries from over training, or playing rough sports like football and hockey. I’m looking at you McDavid.
  • REST, HEAT, ELEVATION will help aid sprains and arthritic pain.
  • BOB & BRAD are pretty damn entertaining – you should check them out.
  • MOUNTAIN HIKING is one of the best things in life. And I hope to get back into it soon. Just look at this beautiful picture. I mean, come on. It was a great day for hiking.
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Jen 

Thanks for reading! Have you experienced an injury from over-training or pushing yourself too far? Let me know in the comments how you recovered from it.

 

 

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