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7 Lessons To Learn From A Toddler In Order To Rebound From Injury

7 Lessons To Learn From A Toddler In Order To Rebound From Injury

The next time you are faced with a running injury and forced to hang up the shoes for a while, embrace it with the energy and enthusiasm of an 11-month old and enjoy the journey back.

This past spring, as I built mileage toward my first marathon which lay on the horizon, I aggravated my IT band, and was forced to reassess my overall fitness and health. I was now resigned to strength training, cross training, stretching and icing to rehab.

None of these activities are especially dear to me, which is probably what got me into the predicament in the first place. Although I initially found myself schlepping through the motions each day as if to knock out chores on a checklist, I soon joined forces with a competent training partner, my then 11-month old son, Deacon.

In no time at all, he provided some much needed insight on how to move forward after being dealt a setback. Below are the seven lessons best learned from someone who has never even walked before.

1. Back to the basics

Before we ever learned to run, we learned to walk. And how did we do it? By building up our strength and confidence one step at a time. Much is the same when we are dealt with an injury. We have to take a step back, determine our deficiencies, and improve those areas, one step at a time.

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Tip from Deacon: Don’t feel defeated if you have to use modified or assisting devices. Deacon preferred a four-wheeled lion to help him from Point A to Point B.

2. Have a short memory

As I watched my 11-month old son encounter minor setbacks, he became frustrated. But he had an equally effective counter – a short memory. As adults, and runners, we grow accustomed to walking and running long distances.

We suddenly have that ability taken away, and there is an accompanying psychological effect. It can be disappointing when we compare a 30 minute indoor strength training routine to a two hour, outdoor 10 mile run, that we may have done just a few weeks prior. Don’t fall victim to this mind game – stay in the moment.

Tip from Deacon: If you encounter a setback, distract yourself. Cheerios work well.

3. Get plenty of rest

As he transitioned to sitting up, crawling, pulling up, and walking with assistance, Deacon put in some much needed rest, sometimes up to 12 hours a night! Don’t get me wrong, when he is tired, he still fights the notion of going to bed.

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But is our situation as injured runners (and adults) much different? As we build back our strength, our bodies also need valuable rest. As adults, we too struggle against temptation to get that much needed rest almost daily due to things like work schedules, TV, and social engagements.

Tip from Deacon: Try to get in a routine that is similar each day as bedtime approaches, and have a cue for yourself that it is approaching. Like a bath with all of your favorite toys.

4. Cross training

He crawled, he planked, he did toddler modified burpees. If Deacon woke up every day and tried to stand and walk with no help or progression, he may never have met his goal of walking.

The point being, his approach to overall fitness helped build strength and agility that would allow him to meet his goal progressively, over time. The more varied your approach (cycling, walking, strength training, swimming, etc.), the better your overall fitness will be, and the lower your risk for injury.

Tip from Deacon: Incorporate as many different toys as possible.

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5. Have fun

Imagine how weird it would look if he woke up from his nap, changed himself into workout clothes, and struggled through sets and reps with a painful look on his face. Instead, he tackles his toddler-modified workout with a smile on his face, and has fun doing it.

Whatever the exercise of the day or moment might be, add a twist or competition to it to make it fun again (plank-off, anyone?).

Tip from Deacon: Add music to your workout, and when you feel like dancing, dance!

6. Keep your intensity

Just because you are sidelined with an injury does not mean you have to slog through the rehab assignment. Without risking further injury, look for ways to maintain the intensity of each workout.

Watch a toddler barrel through playtime. They take on a circuit mentality as they cycle through activities with minimal break time.

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Tip from Deacon: Spread your workouts apart. Rather than sit between your sets, crawl (or walk, or jog, depending on injury) to the next station or exercise.

7. Remember that everyone has a different timeline

Pick up any child development book and it will give you an age that the average child will begin to walk. But we all know they don’t wake up that day and start walking, as they all have their own unique timelines.

Injury rehab is no different. Google “IT band rehab” and you will similarly find advice for how long you should take off. Again, every runner will differ. Be patient, and know you may not be “average”.

Tip from Deacon: Celebrate the smaller milestones along the way.

Featured photo credit: Yoga/Elvert Barnes via imcreator.com

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Published on March 8, 2019

How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

When we fall into a workout routine, our moves become automatic, and the body quickly adapts. This is called muscle memory.[1] While teaching your body how to properly execute squats, push-ups, or crunches is a benefit, overly relying on these moves to consistently grow gains won’t yield the kind of results you want. That’s because the muscles work in the same way every time.

Simply put, they’re not being “surprised,” so they get lazy.

Supplementing your routine with flow yoga is one way of surprising your muscles, especially if you are new to the yoga practice and have never tried the postures. It’s like taking a new road home when you drive, deviating from your usual route. Science has found that by doing so, you’re creating new neuropathways in your brain.[2] The same is done in your muscles when you try a new routine.

How is this done? Let’s dive right into it.

How Flow Yoga Boost Your Gains in Your Workout Routine

Think about your current workouts:

If you lift weights, you rely on external tools to engage your various muscle groups. Over time, your shoulders, legs, or biceps will come to expect the weighted plates or dumbbells, in the repetitive sequences that you remember.

In flow yoga, we use the body as the weight. Add gravity and hundreds of different postures and combinations, and you have a workout that uses the same muscle groups, but in many different ways.

A pose such as plank is a full-body workout, with every muscle engaged to keep the body in one long line. While it’s a stationary pose, it requires muscle control and activation, with no room for passivity.

    A Flow sequence, on the other hand, requires your muscle to switch from one pose to another swiftly, providing you with a more balanced and wholesome use of your major muscle groups.

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    Not only do these poses and routines re-energize the body in a refreshing way, they also allow you to learn something new, which is powerful for the mind.

    Bottom line? Complementing your exercise regimen with flow yoga is like hitting the shuffle button on your workouts, using your muscles in ways that “surprise” them, which in turn boost their growth and performance.

    Energizing Flow Yoga with Added Cardio

    Flow yoga is also known as “Vinyasa.”[3] In Sanskrit – the sacred language of the practice and its Indian roots – Vinyasa is roughly translated to “one breath, one movement.”

    This guideline, first and foremost, enhances your breathing, and teaches you how to go from our typical shallow, chest-only breathing, to a more deeper, belly-chest breath that uses the entire lung system.

    Not only is this beneficial for a myriad of healthcare reasons (combat allergies, eliminate toxins, reduce stress, ease anxiety), it also greatly impacts our muscles,[4] and therefore our workout.

    Flooding your muscles with rich oxygen will only keep them healthy, while the cardio benefit will get you warmed up to take on the more challenging postures in a flow yoga class. This prevents injuries and cramping.

    The best example of energizing cardio in flow yoga is the Sun Salutation sequence. Each pose is completed on an inhale or an exhale, until the sequence is finished. One full sequence may be repeated several times, encouraging you to take fuller and deeper breaths. The cycles warm up and loosen the body and prepare the muscles for stationary poses that are held longer.

    Here’s how to do a Sun Salutation Flow:

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    Due to the Sun Salutations, the muscles are not thrown into a challenging workout, but rather primed and prepared with energizing breath.

    Why is this important, you ask? Because happy muscles are warmed-up muscles.

    The Best Thing About Flow Yoga

    The best thing about practicing flow yoga? You’re building strength and flexibility.

    Strength and flexibility are like the Mecca of a wholesome workout routine. Before we get into why this is important, let’s break these two down individually to see how they stand up on their own:

    Meet Strong Stan

    Strong Stan is at the gym, doing bicep curls with massive dumbbells. His muscles have peaked in size, and he proudly displays them.

    While he loves to lift weights, Strong Stan often skips stretching or warm-ups. He just doesn’t see how that could help him continue his muscle gains, so he jumps right into a heavy workout.

    While it’s not evident to a passerby, Stan’s muscles are hurting. Without sufficient flexibility or deliberate stretching, Stan’s muscles are shortening and getting tighter. This eventually leads to joint injuries,[5] because un-stretched muscles have limited range of motion.

    Big muscles are a sure indicator of strength, but here’s the kicker – choosing not to prioritize flexibility will keep them inherently at risk.

    Meet Flexible Fiona

    Flexible Fiona is in a flow yoga class, easing herself into a backbend.[6] She effortlessly gets into the pose, and “hangs” out there for a few breaths while the teacher cues the class.

    Even though the teacher instructs the students to engage their glutes and be mindful that this is an active pose, Flexible Fiona opts otherwise, and relaxes into the posture by sacrificing the strength she ought to be building.

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    To many in the class, Fiona’s execution of the backbend would be a success – maybe even something to envy. However, what Fiona doesn’t realize is that her excessive flexibility is actually a detriment to her joints.[7]

    Flexibility has been defined as the “absolute range of motion” by Tony Gummerson, Martial Arts instructor. For people who are naturally flexible, that line of absolute range is often blurry and, in practice, overlooked.

    It’s very easy for Fiona to go above and beyond her range of motion, since her flexibility parameters are much wider than what Strong Stan may experience in a similar pose.

    Because she doesn’t feel the stretch in the same degree of motion as other students in class, Fiona has to push the envelope of her flexibility. This puts too much pressure on the joints that are already overworked, and it overstretches the muscles that are now prone to tearing.

    Your goal is to create muscle and joint balance and wholeness.

    What Strong Stan and Flexible Fiona have in common is that they’re both missing vital pieces of muscle awareness.

    In Stan’s case, heavy and tight muscles crave flexibility. Without it, not only would Stan hit a plateau in his gains because of a sure injury, but he would miss out on having the lean and toned muscles that we all want to have.

    In Fiona’s case, her overstretched muscles are not getting a workout at all. Rather, her excessive flexibility is resting on her joints, which leads to definite injury.

    So what can you do? It’s quite simple.

    You have to give your muscles the opposite of what they’re used to.

    If you’re a Stan and hate stretching, focusing on your flexibility is key. You will lengthen your tight muscles, and you’ll create new muscle memory by practicing routines that are new to you and your muscle groups.

    If you’re a Fiona and hate strengthening, focusing on this priority is vital. Your muscles are used to being passive as you stretch, so shaking up the usual and putting them to work will not only keep you injury-free, but that much closer to the muscle gains you’ve been looking for.

    Fortunately, flow yoga is the whole package, and can be the one-stop-shop for both Stan and Fiona.

      Final Thoughts

      If you’re serious about using flow yoga to supplement your workout routine to boost gains, sign up for a class at your local gym or yoga studio. There are a number of styles of yoga to try, but as we’ve discussed in this article, the Vinyasa style is your best bet to complement a moderate exercise regimen.

      Many studios offer beginner-style Vinyasa classes, where the instructor will explain the basics, and break down the sequences in a pace that is suitable for entry-level students. From here, the student can build upon their practice, and opt for more challenging, fast-paced classes, such as Power Flow or Ashtanga.

      Working out is a lesson in teaching your muscles. The gains that we grow are the result of that experience, and it all comes down to conditioning our body in a way that is healthy, efficient, and balanced.

      With a practice like flow yoga, we can offer supplemental training to our current regimen that will work our muscles in ways that are new, refreshing, and “surprising.” This method will keep our muscles toned and lean, as long as we prioritize the balance between strength and flexibility to ensure that we’re meeting both of these needs. Our muscle gains and body health depend on it.

      More Resources About Yoga and Fitness

      Featured photo credit: Edit Sztazics via unsplash.com

      Reference

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