Monday, April 28, 2014

Am I Overtraining? 9 Symptoms of Overtraining & What To Do About It

Have you ever finished a workout and felt like you need to take a nap? Or conversely, do you have an unusually tough time getting your workout started? Both of these are signs of overtraining, and whether you've been training for years, or you finally started the workout routine you've always wanted, they are signs you should be aware of. Like anything in life, too much of even a good thing is bad, and exercise is no exception.

You might be thinking that overtraining isn't something you need to worry about. You barely have enough time in the day to fit in the short workout you do get in—how can you possibly be working out too much? Unfortunately there are other factors that can contribute to overtraining. Read on to discover if you're overtraining and what you can do about it.

1. You feel exhausted after working out

Exercising releases serotonin in the brain, and regular exercise will increase your regular serotonin levels. After working out, this spike in serotonin should give you an energy boost. If you're feeling mentally exhausted after you work out to the point that you have to sleep, you might be overtraining.

2. Your legs (or entire body) feel "heavy" when you work out

Some of us take a little bit of self-motivation to get working out, but if your legs feel physically heavy, or you're body in general feels like it's taking extra effort to get moving, overtraining could be a factor.

3. You’re losing physical & mental motivation to work out

Taking this a step further, you might be losing motivation to work out entirely. If you're in a set routine and you aren't overtraining, you will usually be excited for your work out that day, not only mentally, but physically. If this lack of motivation is carrying on throughout your day, it could be a sign of overtraining.

4. You're sore for days on end

Soreness is a sign of a good workout, and many people learn to enjoy slight soreness the day after a workout. When soreness is lasting for days on end, however, it might be time to address your routine or your diet. It's especially important to watch out for any bone or joint soreness.

5. You're not seeing results

Another one of the symptoms of overtraining is that you are no longer seeing results in some form, whether its fat loss, muscle gain, or performance results. In a weight loss scenario, you might actually be gaining weight despite intense workouts. This goes back to the cave man days. Your body is reacting to a nutrient deficit and storing as much as it can so you can survive. Biology hasn't quite caught up to our modern times. In the case of building muscle or improving performance, your body isn't being given the time or energy it needs to regenerate muscle properly, so you won't see gains.

6. You get sick easily

Overtraining puts your body under serious stress and stress has a detrimental effect on your immune system. Obviously you're not invincible, and you will get sick once in a while. But if it's become a regular thing, or you just can’t kick a cough or the sniffles, overtraining might be the culprit.

7. Your resting heartbeat isn't normal

Heart rate monitors are getting popular these days, especially among fitness enthusiasts. One of the reasons is that a heart rate monitor allows you to see if your resting heartbeat is normal. Of course you don’t need one of these fancy devices to figure out your beats per minute. Just a finger on your pulse and a clock.

8. You're irritable

Why are people so annoying lately? It's unlikely everyone in your life is conspiring against you to push your buttons. It's more likely that you're overtraining. If you're putting too much stress on your nervous system, it could cause you to be irritable, aggressive, or even depressed.

9. You're restless or having trouble sleeping

When you're training right, you should fall asleep relatively easily. After all, you've just gone through a full day that could include work, school, errands, and chores; and you threw in an intense workout. Not being able to fall asleep is—you got it—another symptom of overtraining. This is often coupled with restlessness throughout the day as well.

How Can You Counteract Overtraining?

If you suspect you're overtraining, the first thing you need to do is take a break. Rest is the only way your body can recover effectively and get you back into your routine. How long you need to rest could depend. Usually taking a week off is enough, but if you jump back into training and are experiencing any of the above symptoms again, you should take another week. If you begin training again and you see that you've made a slight gain in performance, that's the best sign, but for the most part you are just looking for similar performance to what you experienced before the symptoms of overtraining set in. It's also important to get your sleep in every night when you’re training intensely because this is when your body will repair itself most rapidly.

Rest is crucial, but to keep from slipping back into a catabolic state, you need to also have proper diet. Diet will largely depend on what your goals are, but at the very least you need to be giving your body enough calories (energy) to keep up with the intensity of your workouts. This can sometimes be a slippery slope, especially if you are trying to lose weight, because you will want to have a slight caloric deficit in your diet, but not enough that your body can't perform. If you are trying to gain muscle, keeping up your normal diet in your off week will help give your body the energy it needs to repair muscle damage from lifting and overtraining, and you might even consider upping your caloric intake and protein as you make gains.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ice vs. Heat: A Guide to Hot and Cold Therapy for Pain

Many people know that the recovery of pain or injury can be expedited by using hot and cold therapy. If a hammer catches your thumb or you get a bad bruise from a bike collision, you may have put frozen peas or a bag of ice on the injury. If your joints are achy from the flu, someone may have suggested you take a hot shower. What many people don't understand is why they ice vs. heat and in what other applications hot or cold therapy can be useful.

Cold Therapy for Pain

Cold should be applied when you wish to reduce swelling or a strong pain on an acute injury. The reason behind the swelling of any injury is too much blood is flowing to that spot. Cold is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it causes your blood vessels to narrow. The narrowed blood vessels make it so that blood cannot flow, restricting internal bleeding and reducing the swelling. Using cold therapy for pain relief is also effective because it slows the release of chemicals that cause the pain and inflammation. The cold further reduces the ability of the nerve endings to impulse decreasing the pain you are suffering.

When should I ice an injury?

  • When your doctor or physical therapist advises you to do so.
  • For the immediate treatment of acute sport injuries.
  • For overuse injuries or chronic pain. For example, a runner might apply cold to an achy knee AFTER a run.
  • Injuries that demonstrate swelling or inflammation.
  • In post-operative instances when explicitly advised by your doctor to do so.

When should cold therapy NOT be applied?

  • On an open wound.
  • Before intense physical activity as it may increase the likelihood of further injury.
  • If you suffer from Cold Hypersensitivity, including Cold Urticaria (Hives that are aggravated when cold), Cold Erythema (a rash that arises when cold) and Cold Hemoglobinuria (where red blood cells break down as the result of cold temperatures).
  • If you have been diagnosed with Raynauds Phenomenon as exposure to cold may aggravate symptoms.

One way to ice an injury is to use an ice pack or ice wrapped in a thin towel and apply it on the affected area for 10-15 minutes at a time. It is unwise to apply ice directly to the wound or sore, as this can cause frostbite to your skin cells. After applying the cold therapy for 10-15 minutes, let your skin return to a normal temperature and reapply the cold. You should do this multiple times a day for no longer than 3 days. One way to get the best results from cold therapy is to use a cold therapy unit or cold therapy wraps.

Hot Therapy for Pain

Heat is a vasodilatation and causes blood vessels to expand increasing blood flow and circulation to particular areas. This is why it is not advised to apply heat to a swollen or recent injury, as this will likely cause swelling to increase. In the ice vs. vs. heat debate, heat is best when used for a chronic pain. Heat can be used for stiff or sore muscles that have not necessarily been injured, but experience pain regularly. Another opportune time for using heat therapy is for stiff joints caused by arthritis, old age, or cold weather. When administered correctly, heat also relaxes muscle and joint tensions. Many athletes use heat therapy for problem areas before a workout as the heat increases joint tissue elasticity and stimulates blood flow.

When is heat therapy a better option than cold therapy?

  • Chronic injuries or pains that do not feature inflammation or swelling. In some instances, an athlete might use heat on a problem muscle area BEFORE exercising.
  • To relieve muscle or joint pain that does not feature significant swelling.
  • On tight muscles or muscle spasms.

You can administer heat several ways. The easiest is using a moist heat pad. This can be applied directly to the area and should be left on no more than 20 minutes at a time. Be mindful not to burn your skin or leave a heat pad on too long or while sleeping.

Using a Combination of Hot and Cold Therapy for Pain

Treating injuries isn't always a question of ice vs. heat, however. A great way to alleviate pain is to alter hot and cold treatment. This should be done once swelling has stopped, usually 2 days after the injury. Combing hot and cold therapy works together to move blood out of the affected area. This should not be done for the whole body, but rather it should be used on the extremities or isolated areas.

It is important to start and end every session with cold therapy. Each period of hot and cold treatment should last 3-5 minutes. Generally 3 periods of cold and 2 periods of heat are administered in an alternating fashion. The entire treatment should last between 15-25 minutes. You should not apply hot and cold therapy more than once a day, but it can be done for as long as necessary. It is important to use particular care when administering heat as to prevent burning of the skin. Hot and cold therapy systems are a common and simple way to self-administer the therapy.

About MMAR Medical: MMAR Medical Group Inc. is a premier supplier of high quality medical products including a wide selection of cold and hot therapy systems, and injury solutions including braces and wraps.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

World Cup Round Up: Four Players to Watch in 2014

This year, 32 national soccer teams will compete for the 2014 World Cup in front of some of the most avid soccer fans in the world throughout Brazil. The amount of individual talent on each team is fantastic and will be the key deciding factor in many games in the upcoming tournament. Look out for these players to be making an impact in big games this year.

Jozy Altidore

As one of the younger members of the US National Team, we're looking for Altidore to add energy into a team of veterans. Altidore had a career high 8 goals (including one hat trick) in international play last year, and if he can bring that momentum into the World Cup, the US could possibly make it through the group of death. The USA opens against Ghana, which on paper, is the least challenging of the group. This should give Jozy the opportunity to find his rhythm.

Lionel Messi

Messi is a goal scoring machine and captain of the Argentina national team. To beat Argentina, you have to stop Messi, and you can be sure to see every team employ their best defensive players and tactics to minimize his impact. Still, Messi is known for his incredible dribbling and ability to penetrate defenses, so the world will be sure to see some spectacular play out of him.

Manuel Neuer

Neuer is one the most (if not the most) talented goalkeepers in soccer today and will pose a challenging last line of defense to anyone that has to face him. Germany is a favorite for many in this year's tournament, provided they don’t have any slip-ups in their challenging group stage, and Neuer is a crucial piece to their squad.

Neymar

Neymar da Silva Santos JĂșnior is the standout offensive player on Brazil, and it’s difficult to say he won't be the most watched player in the 2014 World Cup. As a star player on the host country’s national team, he will have enormous pressure on his shoulders but as a member of FC Barcelona, it's nothing he's not used to. It will be difficult to face a player of his caliber on his home turf with the entire country behind him.

MMAR Medical provides injury solutions for a variety of sports including soccer braces for supporting knees and ankles during the game. Visit our store for our complete selection.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

4 Knee Strengthening Exercises for Wakeboarding

Anyone that has taken a spill when wakeboarding or waterskiing will tell you that water isn't as soft as it seems. Not only can falling at 40+mph hurt, but the wakes you're boarding across won't exactly be easy on the knees. Keeping your knees healthy and strengthening them when you’re not out on the lake is key to warding off injuries and getting the most out of your runs. Here are five of our favorite knee-strengthening exercises for wakeboarding.

Box Jumps

Jumping is an explosive movement that builds muscle and stability quickly, and box jumps are one of the best jumping exercises out there. Simply place a training box in front of you and hop up onto it using both feet, and then step back down. You can get a higher box as you get better at this, or try doing one legged box jumps to increase the difficulty. This is a great exercise that will prepare your knees for impacts on the water.

Leg Curls

Another great exercise for wakeboarding is leg curls. Because hamstring muscles help stabilize your knee it's important to keep them strong. Leg curls help isolate the hamstring and strengthen them very effectively. There are tons of different ways to do leg curls, but if you have access to a gym, simply using a leg curl machine is the easiest. If you want to add in an element of stability to the exercise, you can use a stability ball to get your core involved as shown in this video.

Squats

Squats are the holy grail of leg and core exercises. Proper squat form is essential to warding off injury, but once you have your form down, there is no better exercise for a total body work out. If you're new to squats, its perfectly fine to forego the extra weight on your back and focus on your form and high repetitions. Remember that your goal is to strengthen your knees, which will be difficult if you injure yourself when you're working out.

Stationary Bike

The thing we love most about stationary bikes is that you can adjust the resistance, which will give your knees a serious workout without any high impact and with a low risk of injury. Bikes work all of your leg muscles, giving your knee much needed support.

Remember to always take your knee health seriously in the off-season and you will be prepared when spring rolls around to hit the lake. These wakeboarding knee exercises are even effective for those that are recovering from an injury after they have been cleared by their doctor to get back in the gym. If you've experienced an injury and are looking for a brace to give you the extra support you need, check out our watersports bracing page for an extensive selection of the best braces for waterskiing and wakeboarding.