We’ve all wondered “What bad habits might I be guilty of and not even realize?” Or “I know I should be doing something differently, but what?” Here are five of the most common physical bad habits we see at our practice . . . and helpful hints on how to avoid them!
- Not properly warming up or cooling down.
Seems obvious, right? Yet somehow, we skip these crucial steps in taking care of our bodies before and after we move them. We don’t just mean traditional static stretching pre- and post-activity (which you should do, too). Rather, we need to prepare our bodies for movement and then give them adequate time to recover.
This is done through dynamic (i.e.,movement-based) stretching—active movement, where the joints and muscles go through a full range of motion using the muscles themselves to bring about a stretch. Dynamic stretching, such as walking lunges or inchworms, gets the blood flowing and oxygen and nutrients running through your body. It activates muscle memory, awakens target muscles, preps your range of motion, and readies your muscles and tissues to engage and tolerate activity. All of this can help prevent injury related to an inadequate warm-up.
Just like warming up your body, you need to give your body proper time to “cool down” and return to homeostasis, meaning let your heart rate return to normal and maintain adequate circulation after exercising, and cycle out lactic acid and other waste products in your muscle tissue. This can be done through light stretching, foam rolling, or low-level aerobic activity, like walking or cycling. These activities can decrease post-exercise muscle soreness and help loosen tight muscles.
- Not adequately training for activities—weekend warriors beware!
Have you ever heard someone say (or been guilty of saying this to yourself): “I use ski season to get in shape” or “I run occasionally; I’ll just start going to the gym before swimsuit season.” We cringe when we hear these sentiments, because we can always see an injury on the horizon as a result.
With any activity, even if it’s just the occasional weekend recreational game of golf or a ski trip, you need to be adequately prepared to endure that activity. For example, if you are not a runner, you wouldn’t just decide to get up one Saturday and run a half marathon, would you? No, you wouldn’t (and please don’t!). You need time to train and prepare your body for that activity. You should apply this thinking and approach to all activities. To withstand any activity, your body needs to have the adequate capacity with respect to strength, endurance, mobility, and motor control.
By taking time throughout the week to work on your foundational strength and mobility, as well as the coordination, agility, and power needed for your specific sport or activity, you’ll be ready to hit the slopes, jump on a bike, or go for a round of golf whenever the urge or the invite shows up
- Training too much!
There is such a thing as training too much, and, yes, it can be detrimental to your health and performance.
When you train, your tissues (especially our muscles) endure micro-injuries. The body needs time to recuperate from exercise. When you give it the time to rebuild, the body rebuilds itself stronger, so that you can train harder in the future. When you cut recovery time short, the body doesn’t get the chance to recover, which can lead to overuse and injury.
If you love going to the gym every day, we applaud you! However, it is important to take your rest days too. Try alternating which body regions you work on each day (yes, Leg Day is a real thing) so that each muscle group can have a chance to recover. For example, if you work on your arms one day, switch to the core or lower body the following day and continue that rotation.
- Sitting all day!
In the age of Zoom meetings, it’s easy to fall into the rut of sitting at your desk in front of your computer all day. Your body needs movement, and sitting for an extended period of time will eventually become uncomfortable. No matter how good your posture is or how ergonomic your desk setup might be, your body will eventually say “ouch!” from all that sitting.
To combat the tendency to sit too much, you should get up and move around at least once per hour, even if it is only for 5 minutes, to walk to the restroom, get a snack, or touch your toes. Your body will thank you. These simple activities get blood flowing throughout your body and help to improve your general mobility so your spine and muscles don't get too tight (especially your lower back, upper back, and neck). Proper blow flow also helps your heart, mind, and spirit.
If you have time for some exercise at the start or end of your day, even better!
- Not being proactive about injuries.
We’re all guilty of it. We tell ourselves “Oh, it’s nothing really, my aching knee will likely get better with a little time.” Flash forward six weeks and you find yourself with the same level, or more severe, pain. You then go down the rabbit hole of Google and WebMD and come to the conclusion that you have some obscure, never-before-heard-of disease.
However, when you start treatment immediately after a musculoskeletal injury, the injury will heal much faster. Additionally, early intervention prevents an injury from transitioning into a chronic injury and the host of issues that can follow. More importantly, by immediately treating an injury, you will more quickly return to doing what you love.
When an injury happens, we cannot encourage you enough to seek treatment immediately. In the State of California, you do not need a prescription to see a Physical Therapist. Thanks to Direct Access (under California Law AB1000) you are able to see a physical therapist for evaluation and treatment services for a period of up to 45 calendar days or 12 visits. Your physical therapist can also refer you to a doctor if additional treatment and evaluation is needed.
Finally, we want to stress the importance of preventative physical therapy and performance training. Taking time to care for your body and train it through expertly guided activities will help prevent injury and prepare your body for any physical activity—the ones you do every day and the ones you know we need to train for. Preventative care is just as important for the beginner athlete as it is for the advanced athlete, for the young and for the senior, and for those of us who have to do repetitive motions with our bodies for work.
Proper preventative care is the best way to avoid all the bad habits our bodies most commonly suffer from.