Week 13: The Proper Way to Exercise In the last three months, my fitness regimen has played out like a soap opera -- I've lost a few pounds and gained a few back. But one thing that's remained a constant are my aches and pains. So I turned to an expert for some advice on how to exercise smart and prevent injuries.

Week 13: The Proper Way to Exercise

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ED GORDON, host:

Some people believe the old saying, no pain no gain, and think you have to be completely exhausted and sore after exercising in order to benefit. This week in our fitness segment, NPR's Farai Chideya learns the way you exercise is as important as the exercise itself.

FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:

I've worked out a lot of places, Ed, but Studio B is a new one; that's where we do NEWS AND NOTES. And I've come here with Ronda Wimmer. She's an integrated sports medicine specialist with expertise in fields including physiology, Oriental medicine and rehabilitation. And so I'm going to try to get a sense of how my body works, what are some of my creaky spots.

Dr. Ronda, I've been on this fitness kick now for about two and a half, three months, and I have a problem both with eating and with being consistent with exercise. Luckily, I'm a pretty healthy person. I actually ran a marathon. But, you know, the idea of doing things that I consider boring like, you know, crunches and arm curls, I hate it.

Dr. RONDA WIMMER (Integrated Sports Medicine Specialist): One of the things that we always have to do with people in exercise is make sure they have fun. You don't want to do exercises that you hate. So a couple of things that I'd like to show you are things that you can do around the house or at the office or whatever. There's so much that you can do throughout the day that you don't have to go to a gym for. And I think that's the misconception with people that work out.

CHIDEYA: Well, why don't you just go ahead and show me a couple techniques.

Dr. WIMMER: All right. You know when you're sitting at a desk and your in a chair. Now, I have a Theraball here, but you can do this in a chair, as well.

CHIDEYA: So the Theraball is kind of one of those big pogo balls you used to use as a kid, but without the little handhold.

Dr. WIMMER: Yes. Looks like a huge, thick beach ball. Okay, and all you do is you sit on it, kind of like you're sitting on your desk. And then, the first thing you have to do, especially for - if you want to exercise your abdominals or you want to stretch out your glutes, there's a couple of things you can do a couple of different ways.

When you sit on the ball, what you want to do is you want to put your left leg on your right knee. And then you lean forward. And that will stretch out the glutes. Turn 45 degrees to the left, so you're leaning over the knee, and then lean down. That way you stretch another angle of that same muscle. And then what you'll do is you'll turn 45 degrees the opposite direction and you'll change the angle just a little bit more. And you'll find that that'll be extremely beneficial not only for the glutes, but the hamstrings. And most - it takes less than what, 15 seconds to do.

CHIDEYA: You have, basically, a little half dome made of Styrofoam. And it's about, you know, a foot and a half to two feet wide. So you can kind of put the middle of your foot on this Styrofoam thing and then you go up and balance on the other foot, which is not as easy as it looks. So why is this good for me again?

Dr. WIMMER: It works your proprioception. In other words, not only does it work your balance, it works how your joints work together, as well as it also works your abdominals because your abdominals have to counterbalance everything else that's going on. And so it's kind of an integrated...

CHIDEYA: I look so dumb.

Dr. WIMMER: ...work.

CHIDEYA: I can't do this at work every day.

Dr. WIMMER: Oh, but you can do it just standing on the floor.

CHIDEYA: Oh.

Dr. WIMMER: Stand on the floor...

CHIDEYA: Mm-hmm.

Dr. WIMMER: ...and just pick your leg up. Generally speaking, there's a lot of stuff you can do at the office.

CHIDEYA: Yeah.

Dr. WIMMER: Reaching for a trash can or just standing in a squat position, maintaining your abdominals...

CHIDEYA: ...hips, push forward a little bit, right?

Dr. WIMMER: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: And then your knees...

Dr. WIMMER: Yeah. Goes over your foot. Kind of like a martial arts stance.

CHIDEYA: Right, right.

Dr. WIMMER: And just hold it.

CHIDEYA: Let's talk about injuries. If you're someone who's not necessarily, you know, Sporty Spice and then you get an injury, how do you deal with that?

Dr. WIMMER: A couple of different things. Most of the injuries that I've seen, especially with riders and any kind of cyclists any kind of runners or what I like to call weekend warriors, or people who don't typically train 24/7 - and even those who train 24-7 working with the Olympic teams, I mean, it's the same thing. They train all time and we see the same injuries, just to a different severity.

The first thing is people need to remember to stretch, because, most of the time, people do the exercises and they don't stretch. But then, once afterwards, what you can do is you stretch, you know, just to kind of loosen up the muscle before you start do your activity, and then stretch again afterwards.

But there's a second thing that people don't realize that they can do at home. And that is as soon as you're done working out and you stretch, you want to eat after you exercise. So your muscles, especially for training athletes, they need the carbs to come back into the muscles. And glycogen is the stored form of glucose, which is sugar.

CHIDEYA: So when you talk about taking in carbs, are we talking about, you work out and then you need pasta, you know, which is kind of a complex carb, or you need a Coke, which is sugar. What are you talking about when you say carbs?

Dr. WIMMER: You need to be able to have good carbs, or what we call complex carbs, for the body to be able to use. Granted, if you're an elite athlete, you can have sugar, because you're going to burn it up fairly quickly. But if you're somebody that has a slower metabolism, then you want to cut out the excess sugars. Those excess sugars are your Cokes, your candies, you know, your chips, anything that's really not good for you and has a lot of preservatives in it; that's been my philosophy.

Now, once you eat, you need to make sure you put heat on a muscle. Most people will always ice it, because that's always been the protocol. Ice, ice, ice, ice! Well, actually, ice isn't always the best. Ice is good for inflammation, but people generally will ice the whole joint. And if they ice the whole joint, they lock it up. You just want to ice the little area with like an ice cube, instead of locking up the whole joint. And that's what people don't understand.

CHIDEYA: That's interesting.

Dr. WIMMER: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: Yeah. So at what point do you say, I really tore myself up and I need to stop exercising?

Dr. WIMMER: Have you ever been told there's a good pain and a bad pain?

CHIDEYA: Mm-hmm.

Dr. WIMMER: Yeah. The good pain is, oh, it hurts so good! The bad pain is, oh, ow! Okay. When it hurts so good, that's good pain. But when you get to that, ouch, it hurts kind of pain, or, oh, God! then you should lay off for a little bit. Stretch; take it easy. Most people have a tendency to try to work through it. No pain, no gain in the gym. I am not a big advocate of that. If you are in so much pain and you're still working out, you're actually going to create an injury.

CHIDEYA: There's this conventional wisdom that the only time that you're doing a really good job when you're weightlifting or strength training is when you actually feel the burn. Is that true?

Dr. WIMMER: You can feel the burn, yes, to a certain extent, as long as it's not painful. You don't want to have a bad burn. It should be a good burn, like a fatigue burn. But if it's a burn tingly, then you need to stop.

CHIDEYA: Dr. Ronda Wimmer, thank you very much.

Dr. WIMMER: Thank you.

GORDON: That was NPR's Farai Chideya with sports medicine specialist Ronda Wimmer. You can see pictures of Dr. Wimmer and Farai demonstrating some exercises to relieve pain at our Web site at npr.org.

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