I often get asked when and how often people need to do prehab/rehab stuff for aches, pains and even old injuries. They ask how often they need to foam roll, stretch and even do activation exercises.
And my answer….
Before you have pain!
If you’ve had an injury or you know you are prone to aches and pains in certain areas, you need to take care of those areas before pain arises or before you do things that could lead to pain if those areas aren’t loosened and activated.
And if pain has flared up in an areas, you need to be extra diligent to do everything you can to alleviate.
How often you need to do the prehab/rehab will vary. If you stay on top of things, a few minutes each day may suffice.
If you wait till things start to flare up, you may have to spend more time on prehab activities.
But I would like to point out that if you have neck, shoulder or upper back pain from sitting at a desk all day, rolling out for one minute every other day isn’t going to do it.
Just think about how long you sit with poor posture….Does one minute of pain prevention (aka foam rolling, stretching, activation) really seem like it equals the time you sit with poor posture?
Does it really seem like that minute can counteract the 9 hours?
So why do we all expect results when we basically spend only minutes a day doing the right things and hours doing the wrong things?
The thing is we can’t.
While there is no exact amount of time we need to spend doing rehab/prehab exercises and stretches, we do need to consider just how much time we spend each day doing things to counteract all the good we do in the gym.
That one hour each day we spend there with our 5-10 minutes of warm up (foam rolling, stretching and activation) simply isn’t enough.
But that doesn’t mean you need to spend hours each day to see benefit. Five minutes when you wake up, the occasional stretch or rolling at your desk, 5-10 minutes before you workout, a few minutes after your workout and maybe a minute or two before you go to bed.
If you did that every day…WOAH!
At most, what I outlined above, is like 30 minutes out of your day…AT MOST.
And yet we can’t find the time for that?!?
Suffering from pain and injury is our alternative and yet we skip those 30 minutes and wonder why we never get better.
30 MINUTES a day! An excuse to get up and stretch while sitting at our desk all day! Or heck simply a stretch in the doorway when we get up to go the bathroom. (AHEM…Look at all those stretches you can easily do at your desk!)
Or some balancing and leg swings when we brush our teeth to keep our ankles strong.
This is seriously not hard stuff. Shoot it isn’t even as hard as finding 15-30 solid minutes to workout! Almost all of these things can be done while doing something else.
Watching TV? Sit on a ball on the ground to roll out your glutes, hips and low back to get rid of your achy low back!
Simple little prehab/rehab things can go a long way to keeping an area pain and injury-free.
Because even if you did the initial rehab after an injury, you are never done.
You ALWAYS have to take care of that area and make sure to maintain strength in the muscles up and down the kinetic chain from that disruption.
Because every day we do things to create imbalances and potentially upset old aches and pains or create new ones.
So to live pain free…What is a few minutes each day on exercises to keep you balanced?
Are you diligent about doing prehab activities – foam rolling, stretching, activation, balance and stability stuff?
How do you fit those things into your day?
Here are some great tips and exercises to help you prevent and alleviate minor aches and pains:
- 5 Quick Fixes For Wrist and Elbow Pain
- Alleviate Low Back Pain
- The Complete Foam Rolling Video Course and E-Book
NOTE: This is discussing previously rehabbed injuries and minor aches and pains. If you suffer from an injury, make sure to do the physical therapy rehab prescribed to you!
So there are all sorts of “pain” related discussions that really get on my nerves.
One is when clients who are working hard for the first time in their life tell you that an exercise “hurts” when, upon further investigation, you find out that it is merely making their muscles fatigued and that they aren’t used to the burning sensation of a muscle working.
While I don’t like the phrase “no pain, no gain,” being sore and working hard isn’t always “comfortable.”
But at the same time having the attitude “no pain, no gain” and never recognizing when something hurts isn’t good either.
While I can get annoyed when someone can’t recognize the difference between “injury pain” and “discomfort from muscles working hard,” I get way more annoyed by the client who thinks they are cool because they push through the pain.
And honestly this “no pain, no gain” client WAY worse than the client that mistakes muscles working for pain.
You may be shaking your head and going, “Heck no! They aren’t near the same! You have to work through the pain sometimes! You are TOUGH if you just push through!”
Uhm no…I’m sorry….You don’t…and you aren’t.
You are stupid.
Yep that’s right…STUPID.
I can say this as someone who has been stupid one too many times in her past. I have the torn muscles and scar tissue to prove it.
And guess what I have now?
Improperly rehabbed injuries that years later I’m now having to deal with.
Trust me…injuries aren’t cool.
You aren’t “bad-ass” if you push through.
Honestly, unless you are a highly paid athlete, there is never a reason to push through true pain and injury. And even if you are a highly paid athlete, there is a very fine line between stupid and something you push through because it is your job.
When you work through the pain, generally all you do is make the injury worse. And then you are either eventually going to have to take time off, and probably MORE time than if you had rested and rehabbed it immediately, OR you are going to have something that restricts your movement and causes pain for the rest of your life.
Doesn’t sound like great options if you don’t just DEAL with the pain immediately.
But rehab and pre-hab aren’t “cool.”
It is way cooler to be like, “I can’t do push ups because of my shoulder.”…Right!?!
I can’t tell you how many people recently I’ve encountered coming from other gyms who say they “can’t do” something because of an injury they’ve never dealt with and just “worked through.”
And every time I say to them the same thing, “Well what have you been doing for rehab?”
And I always get the same answer…NOTHING.
Can someone please explain this to me?
Why is pain cool and rehab not cool?
Don’t we workout to feel BETTER!?! Don’t we go to look BETTER? Perform BETTER?
If we want exercise to make us BETTER, how do we expect to do that if we are restricted and in PAIN?!
If you have an ankle injury, even one from decades ago, and you never rehabbed it, it may be causing problems up your leg. It may be why you have low back and hip pain. It may be why you have balance issues. It may be why you can’t lift as much as you want to. It may be why your butt isn’t as strong and perky as you would like!
It may be causing a whole load of problems that aren’t even related to the initial injury!
But it is better to just push through…huh?
Ok here is your chance to stop being an idiot and stop accepting pain.
Take five minutes at the beginning of your workout and add in an exercise or two to rehab or better yet “pre-hab” any weak points or areas of past injury. (Just because at one point in your life you did some rehab for an injury doesn’t mean you are just now done with it now. That area may always need some extra TLC.)
Here are a couple quick things you can do for four common areas of injuries…
- ANKLE/FOOT PAIN/INJURY (Heck these are even good for some knee and hip problems) – Roll out the bottom of your foot, your shin and your calf with a roller or small ball. Then work on your balance. My favorite balancing drill is when you either stand on one foot on the ground or on a foam pad and then you swing the other leg. Do swings forwards and backwards, side to side and even rotational (like you are lifting your foot to step back over a fence and then bringing it back forward over the fence without touching down). Then do glute activation drills. Pick one or two from this list and do 1-2 rounds of 10-20 reps.
- LOW BACK/HIP PAIN/INJURY – Low back pain is a super common problem. While rolling out the whole leg is ideal to find all trigger points, you can start with your hips, glutes and low back. A great way to roll out your hips, can be to take a bigger, foam ball and lay over it. The ball will actually be pressing into your abs right above your hip and beside your belly button. Relax over the ball as much as you can. You will also want to stretch your glutes and hips. Here are some more great trigger point release tips for your hip area. You will also probably want to do some stretches and trigger point release for your thoracic spine and lats. We can sometimes compensate and use our low back because our thoracic mobility is bad. A great thoracic stretch is one you do when kneeling. Kneel on the ground with one hand planted on the ground under the shoulder. Then reach your other hand back over your head with your finger tips pointing down your spine. Then rotate your elbow of the hand down your spine, under your arm that is down. Then rotate open, reaching the elbow up toward the ceiling. Again, glute activation exercises are key. If our glutes aren’t firing, we are going to use our low back and hamstrings more than we should!
- WRIST/ELBOW PAIN/INJURY – Yup…you can even roll out your forearms. If you have wrist or elbow pain, rolling our your forearms, triceps and biceps can help, especially if you target the areas of insertion. Wrist/forearms stretches are also important. We sit at computers all day with our wrists flexed and never really think to do anything to extend and release the muscles. One of my favorite wrist stretches is, when I kneel down and place my hands on the ground under my shoulders. I then turn my finger tips to face my knees with my palms flat on the ground. I then rock back and sit on my heels, keeping my palms flat on the ground, and then return back to kneeling and release. To also help activate the extensors of my wrist and forearm, I use a trick I was taught by Corey…The rubber band extension. Take a rubber band and place it around the outside of your fingers when they are all together. Then spread your fingers out as wide apart as you can before bringing them back together. This really helps with a lot of elbow pain!
- SHOULDER/UPPER BACK/NECK PAIN/INJURY – Roll out your traps, chest and lats. You will also want to stretch your chest and neck. You can easily stretch your chest using a wall or doorway. Place your hand and even your forearm on the wall or door frame and then step forward till you feel a stretch. To stretch your neck, lean your head to one side and gentle pull your head down toward your shoulder, making sure you keep your shoulders relaxed. To change exactly which muscles you hit, look up, down and straight ahead. Then you will want to do a scapular wall hold. If you do it correctly, you will activate your lower traps which will help you relax your upper traps and usually helps with neck pain. YTWLs are great too to activate the muscles in your upper back and strengthen your rotator cuff. Check out this video by Nick Tumminello on how to do them.
Here is another article with some essential mobility drills that can help you move better!
You don’t have to do these every day, but you do want to make sure that spots that need improvement get attention! So stop accepting pain and start doing something about it. It really doesn’t take that much time.
Be smart…It’s way more “bad-ass!”
NOTE: If you are suffering from an injury, it is best to get checked out by a doctor. Most of these drills are meant for already diagnosed injuries or minor recurring injuries/pains. Also, this list is by no means comprehensive. It is just to give you an idea that there are some quick things you can do before your workouts, to correct problems!
Who doesn’t want to floor the gas pedal and go from 0-60 in less than 1 second?
Who doesn’t see a motivating fitness picture or read a success story and not want to start working out right then and there?
Who wants to take it slow when they first start a new workout program?
But unfortunately, unlike some of the race cars out there, our bodies aren’t built to go from 0-60 in less than 1 second!
If you try to workout too often and do too much too soon, you aren’t going to see results any quicker. Actually, you will most likely slow your progress or even keep yourself from progressing AT ALL. You also risk getting an injury that will stop you from doing anything for a while.
I’ve seen it happen all too often. Especially around this time of year.
People get all gung-ho about their New Years resolutions. They have their goals and they want to accomplish them right now!
They start up a gym membership and may have never worked out before in their life, but they are now hitting the gym at least 5 times a week. They start logging in millions of miles or jump right into lifting heavy weights.
Their bodies aren’t prepared for either activity. They’ve haven’t taken the time to create an aerobic base or get their bodies ready to handle heavy loads. They haven’t worked on their mobility or form and haven’t really even taken the time to develop a specific program/routine that can be monitored to see if it is working.
They are perpetually sore, but don’t slow down. They may develop some slight pain in their hips or knees or muscles, but rehab and prehab are only given a fleeting thought as something they should be doing, but just don’t have time for now.
And they just keep pushing. They’re up there at 60. And they may have seen results right at the beginning.
But guess what?
They can’t keep up that pace. Their body gives out. Little injuries become chronic pain. Their numbers and miles slowly go down because their body is stalling.
They weren’t patient. And in their rush to achieve their goals, they’ve actually delayed themselves from reaching them.
I know it’s so tempting to start lifting heavy 4 times a week, always trying to hit your max. I know it’s tempting to workout more and more as you see your body become slimmer.
I FULLY understand the desire, the drive, to work as hard as you possibly can to achieve your goals NOW!
But if you really want your goals that bad, you need to rest too. You need to be patient. You need to outline a long-term program and you need to learn to enjoy the ride.
Learn to love the workouts themselves and enjoy each and every part of improving your health, even the rehab/prehab and rest days.
Constantly remind yourself that when your body rests, that is when the muscles are actually growing – that is when you are actually reaping the benefits of all the time you spend in the gym!
Honestly, if you can remind yourself to be patient now, you will reach your goals a million times quicker than if you try to rush to reach them now.
Don’t let your drive to reach your goal (be it a weight lifting competition, marathon or even just weight loss) make you push yourself too far too fast.
It’s all about the ride! Enjoy each and every moment of it!