This morning I went to the gym. It started just like any other day: 15 minute cardio warm-up on the treadmill. After I was done with that, I went over to the rack and proceeded to work legs. I changed my music from Led Zeppelin, to something more heavier and went about knocking out my workout. I was able to complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions of squats and goblet squats (squatting with a dumb bell), increasing the weight each time. I did my 4th set of each-the heavy set/less repetitions of both exercises. When I went to put the dumb bell back on the rack, I felt some slight discomfort in my upper mid-back, near my shoulder blades! Uh-oh! Immediately, It felt like I had strained a muscle in my back! Needless to say, I ended my workout right then and there. No need to further aggravate it!
I came home and got my foam roller out, and stretched and rolled the affected area of my back. Man did that hit the spot! I then applied a roll-on topical muscle relief gel, with the aid of my lovely wife. I have to say, the strain is gone! I don’t know if it’s a combination of hitting that muscle with pressure and adding the topical gel, or because I drink quite a bit of water, or the extra amount of protein I’m consuming, or a combination of all of it; but, I do know that my back feels a lot better! I will roll it out and apply gel tonight before bed as well. It’s important to stay on top of muscle strains or a pulled muscle. With a muscle strain you can pretty much return to normal activity. Depends on how you attack it. A fully pulled muscle is a lot more intense. If you’ve ever had both, you’ll know the difference!
The following practices I’m going to discuss are from my own experience, and also with talking to physical therapists and chiropractors in the past for my own information. You should always consult with a doctor or one of the above mentioned if you’re unsure that these practices will work for you.
They say, “Knowledge is Power”. When it’s applied to working out, I firmly believe that! When I used to workout, and would get a muscle strain (it’s bound to happen, especially if you’re increasing your workout intensity), I would talk about it with the fitness coach at the school I used to work at. Several years ago, my wife and I went to a chiropractor, and he was a wealth of information. When I had issues with my lower back, and was going to physical therapy and a chiropractor, I would ask questions about stretches for affected areas, as well as researching online. My recommendation is to read about muscle strains and pulls from reputable websites, like WebMD, or Muscle Fitness, as examples. Learning your body is key when it comes to working out!
One time when I was running laps around the track at the fitness center, I pulled a muscle in my left calf. At first, I didn’t know if it was just a strain, or a pull. I asked the fitness coach, and he took a look. As soon as he touched my calf, I winced in pain. He said it felt like a golf ball in my leg. Yup-I had myself a nasty pull. What to do about that, I wondered? Well, for starters, no running for at least a week! I could still lift, with the exception of leg day. On leg day, I was advised to walk an easy pace on an elliptical machine. Stretch before and after. Go home, ice the area, and rest. That was it. Granted, it took over a week until I was fit to run again, but that really did wonders for me!
You can find just about any stretching exercise online, for whatever ails you. While stretching works wonders, taking anti-inflammatory medication, along with applying an ice pack to the muscle for no more than 20 minutes will also help fix you up. Again, your doctor may recommend icing longer. Some doctors recommend applying heat as well, so it’s important to discuss this with your doctor, should you experience any type of muscle strain or pull. My old doctor used to say, “Heat is neat, but ice is nice”. Upping your water intake is also important. Staying hydrated diminishes the risk of a strain or a pull. Drinking water will also help in avoiding muscle cramps. Muscle pulls and strains can not always be avoidable. What happened to me today was more than likely bending the wrong way putting the weights back. It happens. However, it’s not the end of the road. It’s not the end of my working out. It’s a slight setback. Nothing more. I’m not discouraged. The important thing is I took immediate action to fix the problem. Thankfully, tomorrow is a rest day. If you’re planning on beginning a workout routine, and you’ve never worked out before, it would be good advice to ask your doctor or physical therapist the question, “What should I do if I experience a muscle strain or pull?” I like to call it being pro-active, rather than reactive! Please follow whatever instructions your doctor gives you! Before you know it, you’ll be back at it!