I’ve never met a box that I didn’t think I could jump on or over, and I am usually right. As evidenced by my heavily scarred shins, I have indeed encountered a few metal platforms and wooden boxes that I was incapable (on that day) of conquering, and last Tuesday was one of those days. A quick trip to the urgent care, 8 stitches later, an agreement with my wife that my box-jumping days are over, and I am good to go and ready to discuss the life lessons of my newest scar.
Fear of injury is one of the most common barriers to exercise. And, well, the injury concerns are pretty well validated by science, especially if you are into high-intensity exercise. In a recent descriptive epidemiology study, for those who practice explosive movements or resistance training, the injury rate over a 6-month period was nearly 20%, with many of the participants experiencing multiple injuries. If lower-intensity and more moderate impact exercise modalities are more your thing, unfortunately, the injury risk isn’t any less, and the site and significance of damage (i.e., knee injuries) may have even more acute long-term implications. While there is an inherent risk in everything we do, there is no denying that injuries occurred in training are very closely associated with physiological and psychological barrier to exercise. One recent study showed that for those who had experienced injury, fear and functional limitations often manifested themselves in decreased exercise for up to three years. In many cases, in those who experience injury significant enough to require surgical intervention, the high importance of regular exercise never returns. The lesson: getting hurt to the point where you must periodically alter or totally abstain from exercise is one of the single most important factors in whether or not you exercise.
Then there are those of us who simply have movement embedded in our genetic code, maybe to our detriment. This is where you roll your eyes or laugh in amusement at the follies (and ego) of the author. As I was getting my gushing flesh wound wrapped in several inches of gauze and tape, the first responder matter-of-factly proclaimed that he knew it was worthless telling me to stop in the middle of my workout, so that I needed to promise him that I’d head directly to the nearest medical facility to get sewn up as soon as I was finished. And friends, this isn’t my first introduction to the fishing gear of a medical professional, not by a long shot. I have the highly visible reminder that Olympic lifting in a state of extreme fatigue is not a good idea, in the form of nearly a dozen stitches between my eyebrows, courtesy of a rapidly moving barbell and a central nervous system that wasn’t functioning at a high enough capacity to tell my face to get out of the way. I found that I actually enjoyed swimming, cycling, and running long distances when a torn biceps suffered in a powerlifting competition meant that I wasn’t going to be lifting anything heavy for the foreseeable future (of course, that didn’t stop me from begging my mother to hacksaw my cast off months early so I could try). And then the proceeding foray into triathlon competition ended with a ruptured Achilles, when I refused to ease up on the 40+ miles of running a week despite that ominous sensation emanating from the tendon at the connection between my calf and heel with every step. There is a legitimate fear that my psychological need to be constantly lifting heavy objects, running at full speed up mountain trails, and jumping onto (into) and over barriers may result in being physically unable to move at all far too early in life—and it will all be my fault. It’s quite humbling to think about the kind of physical shape I would be in today, the things I could make this rapidly aging body do, and the example I could set for my kids if I would have just listened to physicians, physical therapists, my father-in-law the chiropractor, my mom, my wife, and my own logical mind. Lesson numero dos: train with your head, not your ego. If your body signals you are overtraining, it is probably right.
As we should all know by now, in regards to the health benefits of exercise, it really isn’t the intensity or modality of exercise that is important, but that we are simply doing it— every day. Nothing creates a bigger barrier to action than physical incapability. It is the tortoise that wins the race of lifelong health and vitality, and does so without needing skin grafts or a knee replacement. Learn from my mistakes and don’t put yourself in situations while exercising that you know you won’t likely come out of without some bloodshed; your body and health savings account can thank me later. But, if you do happen to have a “my wife is going to kill me” moment, come and talk to me about what I can do for that new skin texturing .
Dr. Damian Rodriguez is the health and exercise scientist for doTERRA International, LLC. He holds a doctorate in health science, a master’s degree in exercise physiology, and countless professional certifications. He has spent most of his life researching nutrition, exercise, and the lifestyle behaviors associated with optimal health. Along with his passion for health, as someone who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is also involved in bringing awareness to autism spectrum disorders. There are varying opinions about many health and fitness topics. His opinions are his own and not necessarily that of doTERRA International, LLC. Consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to diet and exercise.