A Painful Lesson…


Hey everybody! Hope you all have had a great week! I’ve hit a bit of a plateau this week, and it’s all my own fault.

I joined a gym last week because it’s starting to get dark earlier and I still want to get all my step goals in. My commute to work is an hour, so coming home and eating dinner makes it 7:00pm or so before I can get out the door. Joining the gym seemed a no-brainer. Treadmills don’t care if it’s dark outside, and I’m probably not in any danger of being hit by a car!

Ah, but I had forgotten the dangers of the gym. Not dilapidated equipment, or lack of supervision, but my own competitive nature! I’ve only been on this journey for a little less than three months. I am NOT ready to even try and keep up with someone half my age who is already in great shape. Logically, I know this. The “anything you can do, I can do better” part of my brain didn’t know.

Now, I’ve worked with horses for years. When you are conditioning a horse for competition you pay attention to, and schedule time for, different things. First, you allow time for the tendons and ligaments in the legs to strengthen and get used to the concussion of a regular work schedule again. While you are doing this, you are SLOWLY strengthening the cardiovascular system. The horse must be fit before you teach it anything new. This process can take anywhere between 6 weeks for a horse who has only been out of work a few months, and 4 months (or more) for one who has been out in the pasture for a while. I forgot that I had been out in the pasture for a VERY LONG time.

I did start out slowly. I just tried to get the 10,000 steps that everyone should get. When that became easier for me I boosted it up to 12,000. I had even taken one of my dogs for a 2 mile walk! So when I stepped on that treadmill for the first time I felt prepared. That’s when I saw the 20 something in front of me. If she went faster, I upped the speed that I was walking. If she was doing lunges, I slowed down.

The biggest mistake I made wasn’t just trying to mimic someone who was already fit. It was my form when I upped my speed. I would raise the speed and take longer strides. Which would stretch my not-conditioned-enough tendons farther than they should have, causing pain. I asked a friend who runs marathons about it and he told me what I had done wrong. The runner’s rule of thumb seems to be 180 steps per minute. Basically, lessen the speed on the treadmill and take more steps. That’s what I did last night. I still walked for an hour, but today my legs don’t hurt.

One other thing I did differently was to stretch after I was done walking. Don’t get me wrong, I stretched very lightly before I even got on the treadmill. But I wanted the muscles and supporting tissues in my legs to be nice and warmed up before I really gave them a good stretch. I feel like this helped to flush some of the lactic acid buildup out as well.

So, to summarize… Shorter steps, don’t be too competitive, and take YOUR time. Tendons and ligaments have to learn to be efficient, just like muscles do. If you start to feel pain in your calves take shorter steps. If it still hurts, reduce your time. Don’t quit, but do take care of yourself.

I’ll talk to you guys next week!



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