Boot camps, cross fit, high intensity interval training – the more intense the workout, the better. Right? I disagree. We are led to believe that the only way to be thin or fit is to complete these workouts that make us feel like we are going to die! But, most of the time these workouts are not necessarily making us healthier. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that 3 out of 4 people performing these workouts injured themselves. We as physical therapists see many injuries as a direct result of these types of workouts. They range in severity from herniated discs, and torn rotator cuffs to chronic plantar fasciitis or iliotibial band syndrome. All of these can be avoided by slowing down your workout!
I have this conversation with my patients every day. A slower, more deliberate workout will allow you to keep your focus on correct form, muscle engagement, breathing and stability of your joints. Thus preventing injury! I encourage you to try it, here’s how…
Cardio: The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study in 2015 that compared slow, moderate and strenuous running over 12 years and found that lighter runners had a lower mortality rate. This may be due to the increase in inflammation and stress in the body caused by strenuous exercise.
I often recommend a low-intensity interval workout that alternate between a fairly easy pace and one that’s slightly more challenging, like a walk/jog. A great way to start is walk for 2 minutes, then jog for 1 min, repeat this for 20 minutes. This training style burns more calories than working at one steady pace for the same amount of time because the body is repetitively speeding up and slowing down.
Strength: Lifting less weight with fewer reps and at a slower speed can actually increase your strength more than the traditional 3 sets of 10, lifting with 1-2 second reps. And, more importantly, save your joints! Try this: Use a smaller dumbbell, take 5 seconds to go up, 5 seconds to go down and only perform 5 reps.
Also, take more time between workouts. Research shows it takes your body three days to recover between strength sessions. It’s during that time that your muscles get stronger and more defined, so adding more workouts will only break you down, not tone you up!
Flexibility: Pain from chronic overuse injuries often results from a lack of flexibility. Foam rolling and stretching are two things I do with every patient. However, these things need to be done slowly so the muscles can relax and release.
Foam roll an area for at least 1 minute at a time. Stop and hold an area that feels tight or sore, taking deep breaths to allow relaxation. It can be sore and painful the first few times rolling, but will provide great benefits to your overall fitness. When stretching, hold the stretch for at least 1 min and perform 2-3 reps of the same stretch. It takes about 2 months to improve flexibility with performing these things regularly, so have patience!
Of course a high intensity workout can provide a fun challenge every once in a while, but I challenge you to try a slower workout day to day. You’ll see your health and overall fitness improve without the risk of injury.
Amy Goebbert, PT, DPT