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How to stay strong and resilient ; Education focus: Strength

As we enter the heart of Autumn, we are feeling the tinge of cold in the mornings and waking up in the dark, sometimes going to work or exercise in the dark. For the mothers out there, some going into a holiday and some already finished and for a few of us we have both and no real holiday with children in different school systems. It is still an upended and uncertain time, planning and making commitments always shadowed by potential cancellations. It is a strange feeling not be fully able to get excited about something, fear of the disappointment that covid may bring.

Resilience is something we are all building through covid. –

“the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”

I have always said our camping trips are such an invaluable tool for our family in learning how to adapt and overcome difficulties as they teach us resilience. We have had many lessons on resilience while camping. Despite meticulous planning things always go wrong or challenge us in some way. The skill of overcoming these obstacles is an ongoing personal challenge and the struggle often makes us feel more alive and bonded. Our kids will have so many challenges in this life and one life skill worth teaching is the resilience to overcome anything.

So how can we do this in our own lives?

  • Acknowledge what has happened, either to us or by us – it is no longer in our power to control the past. The pain and feelings of what may come from this cannot be ignored and in order to move forward in a healthy way this must be acknowledged

  • Assess your options in moving forward – focus on getting around the hurdle rather than the hurdle itself. Learn from the mistake and find a healthy way forward

  • Remember the bigger picture. Perspective.

  • Things in life will hurt us, hurt our children and families. We are all fallible human beings that will make mistakes too, but I love what I heard Oprah say many years ago – “when you know better, you do better”

This can apply to smaller, simple things; to our health and lifestyle choices but also to the big and emotional issues or mistakes. One step at a time…

Education focus: Strength

“the quality or state of being physically strong”

“the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure”

Our bodies are incredible and adaptive. We are forever evolving and our bodies are learning from our behaviors all the time. If you don’t use it, you will lose it. This is profoundly true for our bodies. As we age our body does slow down, metabolically and in the recovery processes, we loose strength quicker and our body struggles to rebound. Many people think this happens at middle age, but really it starts when we stop “growing”, between 18 and 25 years. The difference is we only notice it later.

In this blog I will discuss one aspect of physical strength, our muscles. There are 3 major muscle types in our body -

  • Skeletal, the muscles that make us move and stay upright

  • Cardiac, the muscles in our heart

  • Smooth, the muscles that exist around our organs and tissues involved in digestion, reproduction, excretion, circulation and breathing

Each or these muscle groups is unique down to a cellular level and physiology, and therefore in pathology as well. Here I will discuss skeletal muscle.

If you are a meat eater, you eat animal muscle tissue, so that’s what it looks like. Broadly speaking they connect to bones directly or indirectly through tendons. The muscle fibres and cells are also protected in connective tissue. Injuries can happen to any of the components, from the attachment to the bone, tendons and within the muscle tissue and can range from inflammation, strains and sprains to degrees of tears. Throughout our lives we have innumerable injuries, micro and major. These injuries will cause scarring and damage to varying degrees, some reparable and some not - therefor managed. The scarring/aging is often protective, making the tissue “tougher”, sometimes it can be painful and requires intervention. In tendons, aging and trauma can weaken our tendons (visualise raw spaghetti in tight bunch, strong and smooth vs progressive levels of absorbing water/swelling).

Exercise is essential in keeping our muscle and tendons working optimally and correctly and should always form part of a maintenance or rehabilitation program. Unfortunately this is the hard part as it requires discipline and consistency. There are 2 types of training skeletal muscles (broadly speaking), endurance training (slow twitch muscle fibres) and resistance training (fast twitch muscle fibres). Training both is necessary for healthy bodies.

So how can you keep your muscles healthy for longer?

  • Your are what you eat – protein is essential for good muscle health and regeneration

  • Warm up before exercise, most essential if you are vulnerable to injury – best to do this actively and dynamically to improve pre exercise circulation and elastic rebound before loading.

  • Stretching what is short or tight, not stretching what is already long – sometimes best to get professional advice. Healthy joint range of movement will optimize muscle function.

  • Be consistent, regular and vary your exercises working on you whole body

What happens if you injure a muscle or tendon?

  • Assess – know what is injured and to what degree, keep re-assessing as you heal to make sure what you doing is optimal and appropriate

  • Acute trauma (pain, redness and swelling) = PRICE – protect, rest, ice, compression and elevation

  • Chronic injury/trauma – modify your exercises appropriately, seldom does stopping exercise benefit you

  • Keep moving – what you can, when you can. Movement is health

  • Overuse or old injury causing trouble? – improve circulation, massage, heat, specific targeted treatment, appropriate movement/exercise/stretches

Don’t be despondent when an injury lets you down from time to time, your body is amazing, adaptable and resilient. One step at a time – just keep going forward.

“the only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen”

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