Getting in Shape Safely and Effectively

I’ve been thinking a lot about last week’s blog post and decided that it would be a good idea to explain the process and different parts of Teddy’s training program.  I realized that by only giving you the a small part of the ‘Why’ and not sharing the ‘How’ it was very similar to a doctor telling someone that they need to lose weight but not giving any guidance on how to achieve the weight loss.

As I shared in last week’s post it is extremely important for people and animals with arthritis to move every day.   When we are active we move around more, when we move it increases blood flow to our entire body.  Increased blood flow brings healing nutrients to all parts of the body especially the areas that need it most.  Decreased movement equals decreased blood flow which in turn means that the areas of the body that need the healing nutrients in the blood flow aren’t getting it.  Increased blood flow = decreased pain, decreased blood flow = increased pain.

Allow me a slight digression – when a doctor tells you to alternate heat and ice to an injured area the reason for the instructions are this: Ice helps to reduce swelling and decrease pain, heat helps to increase blood flow to the injured area to speed up the healing process.  It’s important to alternate the two so that a nice steady flow of blood gets to the injured area.

Whether it’s a human or an animal the training protocol is the same for helping condition a deconditioned body.  You may remember I shared that Teddy’s training program would include endurance conditioning, strength (muscle) building, active recovery and rest.  Here’s a look at what we did this past week:

  • Sunday: Easy hand walking in the arena for only 15 minutes.  (Remember the ride on Saturday was too much for him. He was extremely sore but needed to move to get his blood flow moving to reduce the buildup of lactic acid in his muscles and joints.)
  • Monday: Groundwork for about 20 minutes which was more demanding than hand walking but much easier than riding.  I made him move his body in such a way that made him engage the weakest areas of his body.  I then hand walked him for about 10 minutes.
  • Tuesday: I did ground work with him then rode him for a total of about 30 minutes.  I also used my much lighter saddle to make it a little less demanding for him.  We did groundwork for 15 minutes and I only rode him very lightly for 15.
  • Wednesday: Was a complete rest day
  • Thursday: I walked him down to the neighborhood arena, did groundwork for about 20 minutes then rode him for 30 minutes.  I hand walked him back to the barn. Used the lighter saddle.
  • Friday: 15 minutes of groundwork then a 45 minute ride in the park. Used the heavier saddle.
  • Saturday: Groundwork for 20-30 minutes along with letting him run loose in the arena to let him stretch his legs however HE needs and wants to.
  • Sunday: Day of rest

Each time I worked with Teddy I assessed how he was moving which I used to determine the level of intensity I would use each day.  If he had shown signs of stiffness or soreness I would have done an easier workout of groundwork of hand walking depending on the severity.   Each day that I did groundwork with him or rode him I asked more of him but stopped the moment I felt him tire.  For the ride in the park I was prepared to keep it at an easy walk but he felt good enough to do the same groundwork exercises I do on foot while I was riding him as well as allowing him to trot.  As you can see that the ride in the park was on Friday and that on Saturday I did ground work and let him run loose.  Saturday would be active recovery – I’m asking him to move but it’s not as demanding as riding him AND I’m limiting the time I work with him.

If you decided that you would like to do a 5K (3.2 miles) walk or run but haven’t walked around the block in ages your training program would look like this:

  • Sunday:  Walk at an easy pace for 5-10 minutes (First stage of building endurance)
  • Monday:  Alternate walking at a fast pace and an easy pace for 15 minutes. (First stage of building strength)
  • Tuesday: walk at an easy pace for 10 minutes (Active recovery)
  • Wednesday: Rest (Rest)
  • Thursday: Alternate walking at a fast pace and easy pace for 20 minutes (building strength)
  • Friday: Walk at a moderate pace for 15 minutes (Building endurance)
  • Saturday: Walk at an easy pace for 10 minutes (Active recovery)
  • Sunday: Rest (Rest)

This is just an example and would be for someone who was pretty deconditioned but hopefully you get the idea.  There’s a big difference between stiffness that you can walk out of and stiffness that causes pain.  If at any time during this past week I noticed stiffness that he couldn’t ‘walk’ out of I would have backed off and made it an easier workout than what I had planned.  Pain is a great warning signal that we should ALWAYS listen to.  Its okay to feel a burning sensation but it’s NOT okay to push through pain.  Pain is our bodies’ way of preventing us from hurting ourselves – so pay attention!  If you're in average condition or better you can still use this general outline just do the activity for a longer period of time and increase the intensity.

Any time during a training program if you feel extremely tired but it’s a workout day, it’s OKAY to make it either an active rest day or a plain old rest day.  Rest is one of the most underutilized training modality of all the training modalities.  Which is sad because it’s during the rest phase that all of the muscle growth and reconstruction happens which is why rest days are so important.

To build strength you need to push yourself harder than you’ve pushed previously.  To build endurance you need to go at a steady state for longer than you’ve gone before.  In order to achieve both of these things it’s important to put an active recovery day in to help flush the lactic acid out of your body to reduce pain, stiffness and soreness.  Lactic acid is what makes us stiff and sore.  And you know about the importance of rest days already.

If you have any questions about any of the information I’ve shared please ask your question(s) on this blog so others can benefit from both your question and my answer.  

Here's to you in Health, Wellness and Fitness!

Jennifer Malocha CEO of Fun at Wuhoo Fitness

Mom Entrepreneur Extraordinaire will be out January 2011!

Listen to my weekly radio show Let's Talk every Thursday from 9-10 AM PST

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