Many patients come into the practice and say “I haven’t done my physical therapy exercises recently because I decided to go for a jog and that was plenty of exercise for me.” Wrong. This is a common mistake made by both injured and healthy people. Running, jogging, biking, swimming, elliptical, aerobics class, yoga, pilates and even walking are not really exercises. They are activities. In fact, the more activities you want to do, the more your exercises are important.
Here is the difference. An activity is something that you do that puts all of your conditioning together. An exercise is focused on an individual area, skill or ability that enables you to do an activity.
For example, if a person wants to train for a marathon, simply running wouldn’t be sufficient to support and improve performance. Exercise programs are necessary to improve core, pelvic and hip stability and to support the legs. Stretching programs are important to ensure balanced antagonistic muscle groups. (ie: you don’t want your hamstrings to be very tight or else your quads will have to work too hard.) In fact, an activity that is performed without supporting exercises can lead to injury.
Imagine a professional basketball player. A player wouldn’t simply go play basketball every day in hopes on improving their game. The player would lift weights, do cardio and practice individual skills that can be brought together to perform the activity of playing in a basketball game. The same logic holds true for runners. Simply running won’t improve performance.
All the time, we have patients who have run multiple marathons and when we show them that they have a hip weakness that is actually causing their knee pain, ITB syndrome, meniscus tear, tendonitis etc, they respond “how is it possible my hip is weak? I run 30 miles a week.” My answer is simple. You haven’t been exercising. You are only doing activities.
Here is the confusing part. Running CAN sometimes be an exercise for something else. It’s a tiered sequence of events. Playing hockey may be helped and supported by jogging (among many other things), but jogging needs to be supported by various conditioning exercises. So where does the chain begin? Most centrally: the core. Doing bridges, planks, lateral hip exercises while focusing on the eccentric and isometric contractions will help to support all activities.
For further information on a plan that’s right for you, ask your physical therapist to put together a wellness plan. At Spring Forward Physical Therapy, we are always just a phone call away.