Weight training is healthy exercise for sure, but to get the maximum advantage you need to ensure that the benefits are not offset by injuries and illness that accrue as a result of your time under the weights. Here are some tips for minimizing troublesome training woes, long and short term.
Keep Your Aerobic Fitness High
Lifting weights, even heavy weights, does not require exceedingly high aerobic fitness. Aerobic fitness is measured by VO2 max, which is a measure of the amount of oxygen that you can process in a minute. Endurance athletes like runners and cyclists tend to have the highest VO2. Fast walking is also a good aerobic exercise.
However, aerobic fitness is related to inflammation in the body. The higher your aerobic fitness as measured by VO2 max, the lower your markers of inflammation, as measured by a protein called C-reactive protein or CRP. CRP is an established risk factor for heart disease — just like cholesterol. Aerobic training or ‘cardio’ not only helps improve cholesterol measurements, it also seems to lower inflammation in the arteries, which overall is a positive factor in preventing coronary artery disease. You can lower CRP by aerobic training, controlling body fat, particularly around the waist, and by eating a healthy diet.
Further, cardio training seems to improve the elasticity of arteries, called arterial compliance, another plus for cardio and heart health. Weight training without cardio may even worsen this effect. So, guys and gals, plan to do some cardio, it could a be a lifesaver in the long term.
Overtraining is bad for any number of reasons: immune system depression; susceptibility to injury of the muscles, bones and joints; hormonal dysfunction, particularly in women; iron deficiency and fatigue and disinterest. It’s not a pretty sight; and many of you who have trained hard at different sports, including weight lifting, will have hit this wall at some time.
How do you know when you’re overtraining? A good personal trainer should not allow this to happen; it’s a balance. If you train yourself, which most of us do, then experience is a great teacher. Go hard, but go home, eat, sleep, recover and rest. Over time you will get a feel for when the body says ‘enough’. Take a few days or a week off.
Indicators of overtraining are constant fatigue, regular infections, excessive weight loss, cessation of periods, inability to eat or sleep adequately, constant muscle tears and joint soreness or injury.
Eat Well and Sufficiently
Eating properly keeps your weight under control, stimulates muscle growth and provides the antioxidants required to suppress inflammation and deal with toxins and pollutants. A healthy diet is crucial to enhancing the positive effects of weight training.
Meal quantity, quality and timing are important factors in a regular exerciser’s arsenal of training knowledge. Proper timing and sufficiency keeps the immune system healthy, reduces cortisol load, provides an anabolic environment for muscle growth and gives you the energy to follow your training program.
Drink Sufficient Fluids
This one should be a matter of common sense yet some exercisers do get carried away and neglect hydration. Make sure you have a good drink before you start training then respond to thirst, heat, exertion and sweat rate to judge your requirements. Urine should be a light lemon color before exercise. The darker the urine, the more dehydrated you are. Excessiveconsumption of fluids is unwise because it can result in dilution of sodium concentration, which can be very dangerous. Although this mostly occurs in the longer endurance events, weight trainers should also take note.
Practice Safety in the Gym
As I’ve emphasized in other articles, free weights are heavy and love to fall onto toes if not chests. Good hygiene helps protect you and your colleagues.
Lift Only to Capacity with Good Form
While the professional Olympic and Powerlifting studios are usually well prepared for safe lifting with monitored equipment, spotters and trainers, this is not always the case with recreational weight trainers and fitness exercisers and their venues: they comprise all shapes and stages of fitness and expertise and training environment.
Here are some tips for lifting with injury prevention as a focus.
Attention to these factors will go a long way toward maximizing your weight training enjoyment and productivity.
Kullo IJ, Khaleghi M, Hensrud D. Markers of Inflammation are Inversely Associated with VO2 max in Asymptomatic Men. J Appl Physiol. 2006 Dec 14.