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The Importance of Strength Training

Yesterday, the pain in my left knee had me limping along at a snail’s pace, hardly able to accomplish anything. It wasn’t because of a particular recent injury, or anything I did. It was because of what I haven’t been doing so much lately, and got back to doing today; strength training.

Things have changed since my youth. In my youth, my attitude was that pain was merely an obstacle, and that if I put in enough effort and gumption I could accomplish anything. When I played sports, I didn’t play well – but I did play hard. I threw myself around recklessly, without regard for my body or anyone else’s.

That style of ‘play’ did take its toll on my body in the long run, and a few years ago while digging window wells for our house I got to that ‘last straw’ and hurt my back.

For a while there, my back and my knees were so stiff and sore and weak that it slowed me down a lot. Only 1 thing has gotten me moving again, albeit in a somewhat unorthodox manner; strength training.

Check out this article; . Everything it says is true.

Starting last March, I began strapping on ankle weights and put additional weights in a backpack (wrapped in towels & taped up to avoid bruising my back) while I walked the dog. Over time, I added more weights, additionally putting on wrist weights and eventually strapping a set of ankle weights to my arms as well (the wrist weights that are available are very light). It was like a personal renaissance. I got stronger, and the walk meant a kind of cardio workout for me as well. Granted, it exposed my quirkiness to my neighbourhood, but the benefits to my overall fitness and even clarity of thought outweighed any concerns I might have had about public perception. Additionally, as I got stronger, the pain in my joints diminished. My theory had been, in line with what a physiotherapist once told me, that building up muscle around my joints would hold them in tension and therefore ultimately put less strain/rubbing on the joints, so that my now basically non-existent cartilage didn’t have to be there. It seemed to be working. And as the pain in my joints diminished, I was able to do every task more quickly, having greater flexibility. I could run with my boys a bit, throw a ball around, without difficulty.

In the last few weeks, however, the weather got really cold around here. The ground froze and got slippery. I strapped on the weights on fewer and fewer days, even taking the dog on fewer walks, since the weather added to the difficulty of getting my workout while getting out dog treats for necessary training and while picking up after the dog.

And now, my knee hurts again, a lot. I guess I’ll have to work out separately from walking the dog, and it will take time. But really, I don’t have a choice. It has to be done. In the short term, while I exercise, my knee will still hurt – but it won’t get better unless I work out. (*This is true for my situation; please consult with a doctor regarding your own physical ailments). I either sit around in pain, or I take a bit more time to be healthy and accomplish more in the end.

Numerous studies have recently linked regular exercise to a reduction in the risks for, and enhanced recovery from, symptoms and diseases as varied as stroke, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s (seriously – google it). Regular exercise also helps reduce the negative effects associated with ADD and other nervous system anomalies. It has been said that exercise is “the closest thing to a superdrug available to us today.”

So based on my past year’s experience, if I am going to make any resolutions for the upcoming new year, they will have to include integrating an appropriate level of exercise into my life. I can’t do my work any better, or support my family’s needs better, if I am unable to move at an optimal level of performance – so regardless of the endeavor, it will all have to start with exercise.

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