Why your body could be the ultimate weight
“I’ve stopped weight training as my shoulder, neck and wrist are killing me day and night.”
No matter your age, have you said words like this before? Felt injured, consistently sore and aching?
This particular line was recently spoken to me by a dear friend who is in her mid 60’s; a fit and healthy woman who is a constant fixture at the gym as well as an enthusiastic cyclist most days.
She oozes both energy and positivity and it is rare to hear her complain about anything let alone muscle and joint pain. As a sufferer of this pain myself, I know what exactly what it feels like.
Just as Nadia wrote about several weeks ago, our bodies are precious.
In my case, it wasn’t until my 40’s that I realised both knees and hips were not quite right, nor my lower back. With the continued pounding I had subjected my body to over the years, it came as no surprise to physiotherapists and chiropractors alike, that I was now a fully fledged victim of the condition we know as osteoarthritis.
Once the diagnosis was fully comprehended, the frustration and disappointment dealt with, I proceeded to change my training outlook. To not resent, though to work with what I had.
With the assistance of a wonderful physiotherapist, I could still incorporate resistance training; known to be highly effective; to my repertoire though from a different angle and with very different goals in mind.
So back to my friend and her pain. Her aggravated shoulder, neck and wrist were taken along to an MRI scan and a physiotherapist appointment, where it was declared unanimously she too is suffering from arthritis.
Although the cause can not always be detected and heavy loads may not be to blame in all cases, it can be linked all the same. Ignoring our bodies’ warning signs (they are far cleverer than we are) and not adjusting training for our age and physical capabilities at any one time can be harmful.
What do you do when confronted by the painful realization that no longer can you do as you have always done? How do you alter the path of intensity and weight that has taken you so long to build up to?
Unfortunately when seen through such a perspective, the reality is that as we grow older the aches and pains not always felt in our youth, or deliberately ignored, can now strike with a vengeance.
Whether that is in the form of osteoarthritis, chronic pain, limited mobility or joint breakdown.
There is of course another perspective to adopt here. One of gratitude for what has been and in the same vein, what will be. The new and varied uses for your body and challenges that you can provide it with.
With sound advice from a professional health practitioner and your own awareness, which is listening to your body and its needs, there is light at the end of that tunnel.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to utilise the knowledge of a Personal Trainer, ensure that they are aware of and possess a comprehensive understanding of your concerns and situation. That they are working to your agenda and not their own. Urging you to battle on when things are not quite right (cue your awareness here) is not going to be helpful.
What we (and still I sometimes) have to understand is that our bodies are very precious and to constantly abuse them is of no benefit in the long term.
There are countless effective and often quite challenging exercises specific no matter your issues. For example someone in my position suffering with chronic joint issues, utilising cables over machine equipment is just one way to effectively push the body. You can check out one of Nadia’s favourite workouts using TRX here.
Cable work brings forth awareness of how stability and sound functional movement is required on a daily basis. Whilst working more than a single muscle group at a time and this unilateral emphasis, the desired outcome can be achieved.
However it should be said that despite the adequate challenges present in such an exercise, there is more than often resistance in coming over from the more traditional type of strength training. After years of believing that heavier is better, it can be tough to get one’s head around the fact that body weight and light resistance work is highly effective for where you are at.
Having experienced this (sometimes tough) transition, after 1 year I am already reaping the enormous benefits of exactly the above. No more is there a sharp, nagging pain after each workout. No longer a reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs. Additionally, my muscle definition, posture and strength have improved dramatically.
I can’t praise enough the benefits of using cables in conjunction with free weights. Many of my clients who are suffering from joint pain are comfortable with and benefiting from exclusive use of cables over machine equipment. With this focus, muscles that have previously been inactive are now awakened and put to their intended use, namely they assist by taking the pressure off our joints.
To successfully execute a simple squat, bicep curl, chin up, push up and the like without sharp pain is a wonderful experience and achieved through the above stability and foundation work. Your squat can’t be perfected when you are lifting at your max load.
Many professional athletes who include heavy resistance strength training as a part of their overall program cycle will also effectively incorporate body weight work. In other words you need not be damaged goods to benefit from such an approach.
My friend, clients and (myself) alike have all come around to a new approach to resistance training. One that doesn’t necessarily involve 120kg on the leg press machine, though rather body weight in conjunction with TRX and cable work. Where it is possible for instance to effectively perform a squat with functional merits and where upper body and core strength are combined.
Be kind, be aware and listen. To your own body.