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Spring is here, which means athletes everywhere are emerging from hibernation and throwing on their running shoes. Before you join their ranks, follow along as Adam Bennett, MD, Sports Medicine at NorthShore, answers our sports-injury prevention questions, from what changes you should make to your diet if you’re in training, to what you should do if training starts to hurt:
If you experience pain while in training for an athletic event, what are your options? The main issue is to determine the cause of the pain. If the cause is muscle soreness, then more rest between runs or training may help. Additionally, some strength training via yoga, Pilates or basic weight lifting may diminish soreness after a workout. If pain persists, seek medical care, which could include X-rays depending on the site and severity of the pain.
What causes shin splints and what is the best way to deal with them and still be able to exercise? First order of business is to make sure that your shin splints are in fact, shin splints. Other causes of shin pain include muscle strains, stress fractures and tendinitis. "Shin splints" is a painful condition that occurs when the muscle attachments pull on the periosteum (a membrane that covers bones) of the tibia, which leads to inflammation and pain. If you do have shin splints, anti-inflammatory over-the-counter pain relievers, intense stretching, deep tissue massage, gait analysis, modifying the type of shoe you wear and rest days in your training program all may help diminish your symptoms. Formal physical therapy is an effective way to implement all of these strategies.
Are sports and recovery drinks after a workout or training better than simply drinking water? Do they aid recovery?Sports drinks contain glucose and electrolytes, which need to be replenished after sweating during training or exercise. Sports drinks are probably not essential for exercise lasting 20 minutes or less. For exercise lasting longer than 20 minutes, research shows improved performance when utilizing fluids that contain glucose and electrolytes. Research also indicates that ingesting carbohydrates and protein within 10 minutes of an intense workout improves recovery. I don’t have brand recommendations but I believe it’s a good idea to replenish with a drink that uses natural flavors and sweeteners and avoids ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. Certainly anything with caffeine, which might dehydrate the athlete, is a bad idea. Please tell your kids not to drink soda pop after exercise.
Is it better to consume protein drinks or food sources of protein after a workout for muscle recovery? I would guess they are about equivalent. The advantage of a drink is that you replenish fluids as well.
If you have an injury in your arms or wrists, such as tendonitis, what exercises could you do to increase strength without causing further injury? This is a tough scenario but there are things you can do. Specifically putting resistance in your mid-forearm and keeping your hands and wrists relaxed can allow you to work out the major muscles of your upper body without irritating the tendons in your wrists. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to pull this off try working with a personal trainer a couple of times and have him or her show you.
For those training for a marathon, half marathon or triathlon, do you have any diet and training recommendations? My first recommendation is to consider implementing rest days as part of your training. I often suggest athletes work longer and more intensely one day and then allow for complete rest the next day. If that is too much rest, consider a two-days-on, one-day-off schedule. Rest days allow for replenishment of glycogen stores in the muscle cells and fluid losses to be replaced adequately. As a result, athletes typically feel better on workout days and can push themselves even harder, which ultimately leads to a better performance on race day.
In terms of a daily diet, avoiding fried foods, caffeine and alcohol is likely to bring benefit. If you sweat a lot, you may need to add salty foods to your diet. This is especially important if you cramp easily.
For those not in training but who still want a great workout, what would you recommend? High-intensity interval training is likely the most effective way to improve overall fitness. For my patients who are frustrated with their ability to lose weight, I often suggest they incorporate high-intensity interval training into their workout routine. Crossfit is a popular example, which works for some, but there are many ways to do this type of training.
If you are concerned about the risk of injury during strength training as an older athlete, what should you do? Are lighter weights with more reps better? Or, should you increase weight and reduce reps? Most people don't realize the importance of resistance training to overall health. My only concern about injury is if you had arthritis in any of your upper extremity joints (shoulder, elbow, wrists). If you do have arthritis in these joints, then lighter weights would be preferred. If you continue to lift to the point your muscles become sore the next day, it is unlikely you will lose significant muscle mass. My only suggestion is to vary the weight, repetition or motion of your regimen so your body won’t adapt as easily. This will ensure maximum benefit from every session.