by Dr. David Russ, Nature Cures Clinic chiropractor
In honor of June and everyone’s fervent hope that the Portland sun really does grace us with warmth and brightness, here are Dr. Russ’s top six things to do to avoid injury and enjoy yourself outside.
1) Favor aerobic activity over anaerobic activity
Without going into the details of cellular metabolism, let’s say that the ability of your muscles to do what you want them to do is dependent on their ability to convert fuel to energy. Aerobic activity primes this system and keeps your muscles ready to work.
Whether you are dragon boating, playing tennis, or working in the garden, keeping your aerobic system in good condition is necessary to avoid injury.
Aerobic activity can be accomplished in many ways—walking, jogging, jumping rope, cycling, rowing, skiing. You should do something you enjoy and that doesn’t hurt to do.
Things like sprinting and weightlifting are anaerobic. They are good exercise, but they should comprise the icing on top of your exercise cake. The cake is aerobic activity.
There is a formula for computing your aerobic capacity based on your heart rate. Google “aerobic target heart rate calculator” and see what you get. The basic formula is 180 minus your age minus a few more for things like being overweight, just getting started with a regular exercise routine, chronic illness, injury, and the like.
A basically healthy 40-year-old who has not exercised regularly would wind up with a target heart rate of about 135 beats per minute. This person should be exercising with their heart rate between 130 and 135 beats per minute, with nice long warm-up and cool- down periods. During the warm-up, the heart rate is gradually increased into the target zone. During the cool-down, the heart rate is gradually decreased to about 100 beats per minute.
When you are exercising aerobically, your breathing is increased but you are not gasping or panting. You are sweating and working hard but not straining. Theoretically, you could sustain an aerobic workout for 60 minutes without fatigue. Unless you are getting into a bodybuilding program where you need to bulk up and really pack on the muscle, your exercise should always favor aerobic over anaerobic exercise.
2) Take a few vitamins and minerals
Even if you are diligent about eating lots of fruits and vegetables and avoiding the bad stuff, it’s pretty likely that you need more of these five things: zinc, magnesium, B complex, vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids.
The following are just guidelines, not meant to be taken as absolute levels for everyone to take. Just guidelines:
• Zinc citrate or picolinate: 50 – 60 mg per day
• Magnesium citrate: 150 – 300 mg per day
• B complex: moderate doses of phosphorylated B’s.
• Vitamin D: 2000 IU per day all year. More in the dead of winter.
• Omega 3 fatty acids: from fish oil or similar, 1000 mg per day
3) Wear sunscreen
Not much more to say about that. Sunburn hurts.
4) Don’t go overboard
Every spring, I see a few cases of torn rotator cuffs and sprained low backs caused by people trying to do too much too soon. Start slowly and give your self a few weeks of aerobic exercise to build up your endurance and condition your muscles before you enter an all-day Ultimate Frisbee tournament.
5) Drink water
When you’re thirsty, drink water. Sports drinks are not worth the price.
6) Use natural remedies as first aid for minor problems
If you wind up achy or stiff after exercising, try some natural first aid before you make an appointment with a healthcare provider or reach for the ibuprofen. For aches, sore muscles, and bruised, tender soft tissue, try Arnica. You can take low potency Arnica Montana (6X, 12X, or 30C) every two hours for a day or two, or apply an arnica cream or ointment to the area every two hours.
For scrapes, cuts, abrasions, and sunburn, applying calendula ointment to the area works wonders. For muscle spasms, take magnesium. The body can excrete extra magnesium quite easily, so there is not much harm in taking 300 milligrams three times in a day. Homeopathic magnesium phosphate (Mag Phos 6X) is a very low-potency, low-dose form of magnesium that is specific for muscle cramps. It can be taken safely every 15 minutes for a few hours. It often gets cramps and spasms to release.
If you are hurt and the first aid doesn’t work wonders, consider making an appointment with a chiropractor or acupuncturist first. Your family doctor or orthopedist won’t have much to offer you beyond painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and boilerplate advice to rest and use ice.
While we’re on the subject, a bonus seventh tip: use ice only within the first few hours after an injury, and then only if there is visible swelling. Gentle moist heat is usually best.