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Regular Home and Body Maintenance

Yesterday, I cleaned that neglected corner of our house for the first time in a long time. I used cleaning spray, a bristled brush, and a whole lot of elbow grease. This process took a couple hours, which is honestly a lot longer than I expected when I first took on the task. I figured "20-30 mins max." But as I worked on it, I realized that I had neglected this area for far too long. I kept working at it and slowly saw the grime give way to my effort, and things started to clear up. When it was all said and done, it got me thinking about preventative care, rehab from injury, and our individual expectations for injury recovery.

If I had simply given up after the initial scrubbing, things would still be dirty. Even though initially the change was slow and hard to see, I knew things were happening.

I gave the process the time it needed and kept scrubbing away. I started to see small areas coming clean, and more following. When I did a final spray and wipe down at the end, it was immensely satisfying to see things sparkling clean again.

So that's more than I ever expected to discuss about cleaning house, but it was a very real example to me.

Compare frequent cleaning to consistent training. It prevents things from getting too dirty and allows for regular upkeep. You notice negative changes early and can address small problems before they become big problems.

Cleaning a little bit every week or two takes significantly less time and effort than a huge overhaul every so often. Less dirt accumulates, and what is there is more easily removed. In the same way, adding in exercise and movement to our daily and weekly routine can can help prevent injury and improve your outcome if you do manage to get hurt.

What does this look like? Well, I'm a big proponent of off the wall training. You don't usually have to tell a climber twice to go climbing or a runner to go running. There is plenty of motivation for that already. But when I talk to people about their strength training habits, a common response is "just climbing." Climbing will get you strong, but it essentially all occurs at body weight. Training large muscle groups off the wall can help build full body strength and increase your capacity for moves on the wall. Strength training is also a great remedy for running related injuries.

I'm definitely a fan of keeping it simple and using traditional lifts. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, weighted pullups are a great starting point and so are their one sided variations.

Starting a regular strength training program is like doing a little bit of regular cleaning. It takes a little bit of time, but the long term results are worth it. There is strong research that strength training reduces your risk of injury.(1) I can say from experience that patients who were physically active and strong prior to injury return faster than those who weren't as active.

Our lives and sports also occur within specific ranges of motion. We may rarely need to access those end ranges of motion, but when we do, our body should be prepared for that. It's fair to say that some injuries occur because our body or tissues were underprepared for what we ask of it.

That is why we should train. Training should incorporate movements that are necessary to the sport, even if they do not occur that often.

When I work with someone who has postponed treatment for a nagging pain or injury, I often explain that, "it took months or years to get this bad, so we should reasonably expect a slower recovery timeline." Early treatment has been shown to result in a faster return to sport.(2)

Experience has taught me that things take time. When results come slowly at first, it is important to continue consistently and progressively. I didn't stop cleaning the second I didn't see a perfectly clean space. We break up scar tissue, strengthen muscles and tendons, and improve movement patterns, but some of that dirt still remains. Likewise, when clients are seeing improvements in strength, mobility, and function, but still having pain, we must look at the bigger picture. I highlight how they are doing more reps, more weight, harder climbs, or longer runs. The fact that they are still experiencing some pain, but at the same time vastly increasing their activity levels is a very promising sign. Their body is adjusting to MORE, with the same or lesser symptoms. That is a huge win! With time, symptoms that were previously easily provoked with only minor activity now take significantly more to be noticeable again, if at all.

Time, consistency, and progressive effort are the tools to success. Get started early to take care of minor pains before they become bigger problems. Be consistent and trust the process. Stick with a rehab program and progress things over time.

We all love instant gratification but the reality of rehab is that it takes time.

The results are worth it.

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  1. Lauersen, J. B., Andersen, T. E., & Andersen, L. B. (2018). Strength training as superior, dose-dependent and safe prevention of acute and overuse sports injuries: a systematic review, qualitative analysis and meta-analysis. British journal of sports medicine, 52(24), 1557–1563.

  2. Bayer, M. L., Magnusson, S. P., Kjaer, M., & Tendon Research Group Bispebjerg (2017). Early versus Delayed Rehabilitation after Acute Muscle Injury. The New England journal of medicine, 377(13), 1300–1301.

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