10%

10off

There’s a rule in the running and cycling world called the 10% Rule. If you haven’t heard of it, you can read more here.  The short version is that it’s a good rule for athletes or anyone new to exercising to abide by to prevent injuries. “This guideline simply states that you should increase your activity no more than 10 percent per week. That includes distance, intensity, weight lifted and time of exercise.”

It’s a good rule to follow, even if you don’t think you need to follow it! As a general rule, I tried to abide by this but I wasn’t always perfect. I think in my case I have the tendency to think that my abilities remain at the same level even if I take some time off. A good example of this is biking. Last winter I went to spin class once a week to keep some kind of base going to make the return to biking easier. It was a good thing but doing 15 miles a week in a spin class is totally not the same as biking outside. I was smart and didn’t attempt to ride to work from home (25 miles round trip) until I thought I was ready. That meant I biked from the half-way point for a few weeks and then decided I was good. It went alright last year.

This year it was not quite as successful. Not only have I NOT gone to spin class at all this winter, but I really wasn’t biking at all the gym either AND I’d been dealing with an injury for months. About a month ago I rode my bike to the gym and back and was ecstatic that there were no issues. It was only about 5 miles roundtrip. A week later I thought I could bike to work. I totally wasn’t thinking about the 10% rule and dismissed the fact that I’d been injured all winter long. I did 11 miles roundtrip which is DUH like 50% increase instead of 10%. Ooooooops…

Totally dumb and totally probably the reason I’m in the state I’m in now.

I see so many mistakes out there like that. I follow a bunch of runners on Twitter and there was one that had a stress fracture and couldn’t run for 6 weeks. That person immediately went out and ran 10 miles for their first run after 6 weeks off! I cringed as I read that tweet and crossed my fingers that they would be ok.

I know I’m not alone in this dilemma. You feel good, you want to push yourself, you think you can handle it…and then you get a setback. What I should have done was gone for a 6 mile bike ride that next week and then the week after 7 or 8 miles…and then eventually I’d be up to the 11 miles I had fast forwarded to.

When I saw my knee specialist he reiterated the importance of the 10% rule and gave me specific instructions on how to follow it.

6 weeks – no lower body activities

Week 7 – start from the beginning. This means I will probably get on the spin bike at the gym and do 5 minutes with very little resistance.

Week 8 – If week 7 went well, increase the time to 6 or 7 minutes. 

And so on, and so on. I can do that. I think. I’m going to try to, anyway. In the meantime, I’m applying the same rule to the other activities I’m doing. I tend to be “GO FULL SPEED” intense in everything I do. If there’s something I like to do, there’s no half-assing it, there’s no middle road and I need to learn to stay in that middle road for a little bit longer.

I seem to do really well with the 10% rule when it comes to weight lifting. The perfect example is the triceps kickbacks that I do at the gym. I started with a 5 pound weight. I did that for about 2 weeks and then went up to 8 pounds. The following week I was up to 10 pounds, where I stayed for two weeks. I realized I was just squatting in my comfort zone and I needed to increase the weight again so I went up to 12 and then 15. I’ve been at 17.5 pounds for a few weeks now and will be attempting 20 pounds soon. When I try to use the 20 pound weight, I will decrease the reps from 10 to 7 or so for the first few attempts. Just to see how I do. For some reason I mastered the 10% rule when it comes to weight lifting–but not anything else!

If you’re just starting out with your fitness, START SMALL. Don’t spend an hour doing your first workout session! That won’t be effective and most likely you’ll be too sore to do much else for a week. Work up to it! If you’ve been inactive for a long time and want to start walking, you don’t sign up to walk a half marathon your first day, right? Check out the Couch to 5k Program for a gradual plan.

So what about you? Do you follow the 10% rule?

After Care

I don’t think I’ve ever really discussed the importance of after care when it comes to fitness. It’s such an important factor in recovery, healthy living and weight loss. I think it’s also misunderstood a lot. I am definitely guilty of ignoring the benefits of after care and have paid for it with extra sore muscles and even injury. Here are some things we should all remember after a good, hard workout, myself included.

EAT

If you CAN eat a meal within 30-45 minutes of your activity, do so. Often times that’s not feasible so try to have a snack, some protein and carbs are good. Restoring glucose in your body is what helps prevent sore muscles and speeds recovery.

“Your post-workout meal should be reflective of the intensity and duration of your workout. Healthy post-workout snacks within 30 minutes of training are most important after longer, moderate-to-high intensity workouts. This helps replace glycogen stores, repair muscle tissue, and prepare you for the next training session. Long- or short-duration exercise that is low in intensity doesn’t necessitate a recovery snack/meal. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a carb intake of 0.7g/lb of body weight and 10-20 grams of lean protein post-workout. (from Workout Nirvana)

You can read more from the lovely Suzanne at Workout Nirvana. After her workouts, Suzanne has a banana and a protein shake. She also recommended this article.

When I work out after work, I go home and eat dinner almost immediately. When I bike to and from work, I have a glass of chocolate milk when I get home because it’s usually 1-2 hours before I have dinner. A glass of chocolate milk  does wonders. I mean, chocolate milk is basically the same as that muscle milk stuff but without the creepy chemicals! Chocolate milk is also a good post-activity snack if you have difficulty eating food right after a workout.

“After you work out, your glycogen stores become depleted. Skipping your post-workout snack can cause prolonged soreness as well as premature muscle fatigue. This is caused by incomplete glycogen restoration (LIVESTRONG)”

Some other good snack ideas:

Peanut butter and a banana – protein in the PB and sugar in the banana…perfect. (But remember, bananas should be eaten after a workout, not before. Learn from my mistake!)

Apple and cheese – I like having an apple with an 80 calorie string cheese. The apple has  glycogen-replenishing carbs. And they are tasty and low in calories.

Protein shake – Kind of self-explanatory.

Dried Apricots – I discovered this awesome little trick when I was searching for a snack that would keep me from crashing after intense workouts. I only need 3-4 dried apricots and it gets me through the famished-frenzy until I’m home and can eat real food.

What is your favorite post-workout snack? 

WATER

This is often where I fall short, but I am doing much better. Drinking water will help reduce soreness. Drink, drink, drink! Then drink some more!

FOAM ROLLER

I LOVE my foam roller.  I use it almost every day. This is probably the most important piece of “exercise equipment” that I own! What is a foam roller? The one I have is a super dense foam that is kind of like getting a deep tissue massage. As a runner, I’ve used the foam roller for my IT band too many times to count. It feels and HURTS so good!

It’s a great thing to have if you are a runner or a cyclist, but honestly I’ve used my foam roller more after a heavy weight lifting session. When I wake up the next day and my quads and hamstrings are crying because of squats and lunges from the day before, I go straight for my foam roller. Michael uses it too and I even got my mom into it. I think I even sent her one for her birthday one year. I recommend it to everyone who does any kind of fitness. And trust me, the harder the better. Definitely go for the DENSE foam. It won’t do much if it’s soft. Check out this article for more uses for the foam roller. Seriously, it was the best $15 I ever spent for an exercise item!

ICE

If you have some soreness in your knees, legs, wherever, try an ice pack for 15-20 minutes after the activity to prevent/reduce inflammation. A lot of runners I know do ice baths after long runs. I tried to do that after Hood to Coast and it was too brutal for me. (Anyone have a tip to make ice baths more pleasant??)

Good god, looking at those pictures!! But if you can stand it, do it! I found this article on how to take an ice bath. I’m still too scared to try it.

STRETCH

I learned my lesson with my running injury years ago. Stretching is a very important part of a workout. I neglected it a lot when I was running and I paid for it with my injury. Yoga is a good thing to add to your routine. It would be a good thing to add to my routine, as well. I struggle with this. I try my best but it’s just not something I like to do. Well, to be fair, I like yoga once I’m in the class and doing it and I always feel better afterwards…it’s the motivating myself to go to class I have a hard time with. I have incorporated a lot of the yoga moves into my stretching routine, though.

And don’t forget REST DAYS.

Take Care of Yourself

A few other things I rely on heavily for my aftercare: Biofreeze (I love love love it!) and my compression tights. Michael bought them for me for Christmas a few years ago and I love them so much. It feels so good to wear them after a hard workout. I also have compression socks, which I wear more often than regular socks.

It’s so easy to just go about like normal and assume everything is okay until BAM! Injury! It’s happened to me a few times. I feel great, my body is good, my performance is the best it’s ever been, and then of course, something happens and I have to take a break. Breaks suck. I wish I could be a good patient when I’m injured but it honestly just stresses me out and I get impatient. I need to learn to take care of myself. Even if it’s a hassle to take the extra time to stretch, or foam roll, it’s so worth it. So take care of yourself!

QUESTION: What are your after care tips and tricks you do?