Veggiesaur Dawn

Fitness FAQs with an Occuptational Therapist

I sat down the the lovely Ida Koraitem, a health advocate with a Bachelors in exercise science and a Masters degree in occupational therapy from Concordia University, and the University of British Columbia respectively, to ask her questions frequently pondered by steel hungry Veggiesaurs.

She was kind enough to devote her time and expertise to our good cause!

First off, what exactly is occupational therapy?

  • “Occupation” refers to activities we do throughout our day. We all have many occupations that are essential to our health and well-being such as taking a shower, going to the gym, cooking lunch, or driving. Occupational Therapy is a profession which helps individuals and their families in participating in purposeful and meaningful activities.  Occupational therapists can work with specific groups to help them reintegrate into previous routines of daily life. In short, Occupational therapy aims to bridge the gap between disability and function.  

What are the most common types of injuries at the gym?

Muscle strains and tears are common gym injuries which usually result from over training, poor muscle strength balance, and overall posture. When it comes to physical injury, prevention is key.
  •  Muscle strain is very common, after strenuous activity, and is sometimes needed for muscle to gain desired strength and endurance.  Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (or DOMS for short) is a result of micro-tears of muscle fibers. Soreness is usually felt a day or two after exercise. Our muscles however, adapt quickly to prevent further muscle damage/soreness when the exercise is repeated.
  • Pain around major joints such as the knee of shoulder joint, are also quite common and often result from lifting too much weight, poor postural form, exercise execution, and overall muscle imbalances. Many people load up the weights and neglect important stabilizing muscles needed for controlled and safe movement.  This will lead to muscle tears, strains, a loss of range of motion and weakness. 
What are the most common mistakes which can lead to injuries at the gym, and how does one avoid them?
Common mistakes are the following related to working out include :

  • Loading up too much weight:  when it comes to resistance training, you should always choose quality over quantity of exercise and load.  Lifting heavy weights feels awesome, but a lot of times this is done because your body is recruiting other accessory muscles to help you lift, therefore you’re not isolating the target muscle thus, minimizing desired results. This is usually demonstrated by Swinging the weight to complete the exercise reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and could lead to injury. Bad body form also increases if your lifting too heavy of a weigh, especially when trying to get the weights up.

  •  Focusing on “sexy” muscles and neglecting the core: More often than not, gym goers focus on one epic looking muscle group and forget other, not so sexy muscles they cannot see. In example, focusing on pectoral/chest muscles and neglecting upper back musculature such as the Rhomboids or lower Trapezius, will pull your scapula forward, and make you appear “hunched over”.

  •  Skipping warm up and post-exercise stretching: Stretch between exercises, research has shown that a lack of the aforementioned hinders maximal tensile strength of muscle fibers, meaning your next rep won’t be as great

In the event of mild injury, what are the proper steps to be taken to prevent worsening it, both at home and at the gym?

  • Mild injuries such as muscle soreness and joint pain are best dealt with immediately to prevent any complications. With regards to soreness, give your body some time to rest and recuperate after injury. If you notice your joints are inflamed or seem irritated, use the RICE method ( R:rest, I:Ice,C: Compression, Elevation).

  • When I know I’m going to have a tough week at the gym, I make sure I stock up on ice bags I can quickly grab when I get home. I also use bags of peas because they mold around tricky joints better (like my ankles). Place the ice on the joint for a MAXIMUM of 20 minutes (10 minutes for smaller joints like the wrist or fingers). If the swelling is pretty bad, repeat this roughly 4 times a day. Be warned, acute injuries should never be exposed to heat, this will worsen inflammation and could cause further tissue damage. Wait a minimum of 2 days until you apply gentle heat to an injury.
Another quick option for sore muscles is to take a shower starting with hot water, then ending it with a cold run of water. This will help with “blood pumping” to help drain out any lactic acid build up in overworked muscles. 

Depending on the type of injury, what is the ideal average rest time I should take off the gym?

  • For sore muscles, the ideal is 24-48 hours depending on how sore you are. If the soreness lasts beyond 48 hours, then you should re-consider the load and intensity of the exercise you completed, try to lessen it a bit because long lasting soreness is your body’s way of telling you that you really overdid it. 

  • Pain is our body telling us something went wrong, and that it needs time to patch up whatever damage happened. As a reward for giving your body a break, your body will eventually acclimate itself to the forces you apply to it , and muscles will build up more, contractile fibers to increase strength and be able to withstand applied forces. 

For the average, healthy adult, do you condone the use of compression bandages, knee/back/elbow braces, and general exercise tape, and why?

  • Compression bandages help in decreasing inflammation, and could also minimize painful movement. Braces do the same thing, they may provide external support for a body segment, and lessen the risk of it moving into a painful range of motion. It could also align a joint in the most biomechanically efficient angle to promote healing and decrease pain.

  • Tape is also beneficial during the rehab process in that it provides protection but does not completely immobilize a joint. The effect of the tape however, is lost after roughly two hours after its application. Taping can also prevent injury, especially if it’s combined with good strength and balance exercise programs (eg. Strengthening peroneal muscles of the leg to minimize ankle sprains). Taping can also protect a healing structure. I often used protective taping before my clients started an exercise so they wouldn’t become completely sedentary as a result of their injury. So, despite the long healing process of ligamentous injuries, they were able to continue with a less intense yet effective exercise regimen.

 There are supplements out there that claim they reduce post workout muscular inflammation, and in turn, the feeling of immobility and soreness. How do you feel about them? And are there natural alternatives, dietary or otherwise?

We all want quick fixes so we could get back to our routine and stop delaying the process of achieving our goals. It’s normal to consider this shortcut, but the consequences are, well…it’s not that their bad…but no one really knows what they are.

Aside from the fact that supplements are often expensive, a lot of them aren’t regulated, and the research and evidence to back up their effectiveness and safety remains questionable. Supplements are often composed of concentrated forms of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, but again, sound research has yet to confirm just how safe it is to consume such concentrated doses of these nutrients.

Personally, I’m a firm believer that remedies for muscular inflammation and soreness are readily available naturally. A balanced and well-rounded diet in addition to adequate hydration will amend this issue.

If you feel that you need help with diet and nutritional intake, please please please consult a nutritionist and dietician to assist you with this. I cannot emphasis just how important this is. Just because it MIGHT have worked for your friend or that fitness guru online, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. I cannot emphasize this point enough!

There are those that don’t like to remain inactive during their rest days, what advice do you have for them? And what are signs that I need to take some time off from the gym?
 Rest and recovery are crucial for any exercise program. You could do this in two ways, either by passive recovery which is simply taking 1-2 days off from any exercise related activity and there’s nothing wrong with this because again, our body NEEDS this.
But recovery doesn’t need always need to mean complete abstinence from activity. If you’re adamant about being active every day, then good for you! As long as you’re not in pain, and you choose the right intensity of activity, then you could participate in active recovery. This form of recovery includes lower intensity and volume when compared to your regular routine. Its main goal is to improve recovery by circulating blood into muscles you worked on the day before. Some active rest ideas could include the following:

  • Foam rolling: This may improve range of motion and decrease any stiffness. Try rolling over all major muscle groups with a foam roller for 20-30 seconds but avoid any bony areas. This isn’t supposed to be super painful; you’re supposed to feel better than you initially did. If not, then you might have added too much pressure to that body segment.  

  • Cardio:  Such as cycling, swimming,  or walking at lower than usual intensity. Try to aim for 55%-60% of your max heart rate. Anything higher would take you into an actual work out zone which you’re trying to avoid during active recovery.

  • Work on your core and flexibility: Stretching is your friend, and so is your core strength. Complete at least two sets of stretching exercises.. Work on your core muscles such as your abdominal muscles. Even if it seems too mundane and easy, you’re doing your body a service. Anything is better than nothing as long as you’re not straining any structures or venturing into a workout zone.  

Have you got any questions you'd like to ask our OT? Inquiries about the aforementioned? Contact me with your questions and we will be right on it!

On maintenance abroad, at home, and on tight schedules

A recurring concern amongst those that don the helm of fitness is health maintenance on trips, or when time does not permit it.

A concern I shall happily put to rest.

Working out at home, or in your living quarters abroad, can be just as intense as a gym routine. Granted, it is far from my preferred method of doing things. But here at Veggiesaurs, we embrace diversity while maintaining intensity.

To the traveling businesswoman or the housebound student, I say this. It's all about high intensity rotations.

In  the previous post, we listed several high intensity in betweens, that, if combined in rapid succession, give you a full body workout that is bound to leave you soaked and satisfied.

Sample home workout

Time based, 15 second breather in between each exercise. Repeat the rotation 3-5 times, based on time and convenience. 60 second rest in between each rotation

Pushups (Any variation)
30 seconds
Mountain Climbers
30 seconds
30 seconds
Jump Squats
30 seconds
High Knees
30 seconds

If we look at the workout above, we see that it works out the entire body in a very small amount of time. And if you wish to isolate specific body parts on separate days, you may, by picking exercises that correspond to the desired muscle.

 Intensity may be added for those who have access to a treadmill or and elliptical machine, working at it for 10-25 minutes, depending on time and convenience.

It is a very flexible and completely tailorable model, my dear Veggiesaurs, taking no time at all, yet taking all the air from your lungs. All it takes is the determination to stay on top should ever fortune not favor you, and access to a gym is difficult or impossible.

There are no excuses now, my minions, go forth and burn!

Month 5-7: High Intensity Cardio, not a treadmill in sight!

Playtime is over, the time to burn is nigh!

The next three months will burn, Veggiesaurs.

A lot.

Despite my frequenting the cardio circuit, I shall admit that I am far from its number one fan. Especially monotonous cardio such as treadmill or the elliptical machine. After the vast changing of schedules between my squash buddies and myself, I had been reduced to the aforementioned for some time, droning away for 15-25 minutes on a machine whilst blasting some Phil Collins (what?).

But, as with all things, I have mastered a way to sap away the mundane and bring some fire back into the gym.

I have mentioned in a previous post how I would oftentimes replace a one minute breather with a ten second one, leaving a clean fifty seconds for ab blasting goodness.

But there comes a time when dedicating between 10-15 minutes to abs does not suffice, and it requires its own day. This is currently the case with myself, as I can safely wash clothes off of this board of etched stone.

 So, as opposed to working on abs during my minute break in between sets, I now do a 60-second set of random, high intensity cardio (examples below). Where I choose one random exercise to stick with for one exercise of my days schedule, stick with it for  the number of sets I'm doing, then do a different exercise when I move on to the next exercise of my original workout.

Example: If it's leg day, my first exercise would be squats, in between each set of squats, I will do 60 seconds of mountain climbers only. My next exercise would be hamstring curls, in between each set of those, I will skip rope. Successively changing my choice of cardio for each exercise.

Ideally, your choice of high intensity cardio should stimulate the days target body part. But this is far from essential, as for intermediates, consistently targeting a specific body part with no rest may burn you out fairly fast. So to start, we'll be doing high intensity cardio that does not wear one out too badly, serving as a breather for the target muscle, and stimulation for your cardiovasculars (I know that isn't a word).

Veggiesaur Top Ten High Intensities and In Betweens

  • Pushups and all their variations: Width of grip depends on your experience with pushups, if you feel yourself failing, use your knees for support.
  • Hanging half chest dip:Hold the halfway position for 20 seconds, drop down, then start up again, rinse and repeat three times
  • Burpees: Time yourself, sixty seconds of burpees are far different than sixty reps, I ask you for the former. Keep form, the more fluid and consecutive, the better.
  • Mountain Climbers: Time yourself, sixty seconds, not reps. Back arched, the more fluid and consecutive, the better.
  • Skip rope, jumping jacks: The former being more advanced than the latter, skipping rope is an art to be mastered, don't rush it, practice on your off days or at home. Do not dillydally at the gym.
  • Jumping Squats: When it comes to weightless squats, I follow a very strict "Ass to grass" policy, where I dip my money maker as deep as possible. Gravity makes this process far easier, dip as low as you can after a jump, bracing yourself for the next one. Sixty seconds, not reps.
  • Jumping Lunges: Maximal effect is making proper air time when you push yourself off the ground, landing firmly and in form with your back straight. Jumping lunges are difficult and take time to master, do not get frustrated if you fall over or lose balance. Your patience will pay off.
  • High Knees: This is your run of the mill "Running in place" exercise, only here, our backs are straight, and our knees are brought up as high as possible, at level with, or just above the belly button.
  • Hops: Before you get your HOPS up, no, we won't be making BEER. Here, we're looking to hop on one foot for twenty seconds, hope on the alternate foot for another twenty, then do high jumps, with our knees going straight up as high as possible. Enjoy.
  • Box jumps: Very simple, deathly painful when well fitted and executed during a complimenting exercise. Jump onto a higher platform (Box, or step) landing as you would on a squat jump, then jump backwards off. The amount of times I have tripped and face planted while attempting these was made completely worthwhile with the development of Adonis-like buns.

Your next three months

  • For the first month, give yourself five minutes of a brisk jog and stretches before beginning, there'll be plenty of cardio to come.
  • The days can be spread apart to your liking so long as they fall within the span of one week.
  • You are allowed a single rest day to stock up on calories and protein.
  • For those not seeking to build, the schedule below can be made into a regressive training regimen, explained here.
  • Day 6 will be combination of high intensity cardio, and five abdominal exercises of your choosing, yes, I can link you a list.

Day 1: Chest
Flat Bench Press (Dumbbell or Bar)
Chest Flies (Dumbbell or Cable)
Decline Bench Press (Dumbbell or Bar)
Incline Bench Press (Dumbbell or Bar)
Bench Pullover

Day 2: Back
Front Cable Pulldown
Bent over row (Single dumbbell for intermediates, straight bar for adanced)
Seated high back row
Deadlifts (Dumbbell or Bar)
Pull ups (Final burnout exercise, high intensity is exempt from those who will brave the pull up bar.)
To failure

Day 3: Arms
Seated preacher curl/Lightweight standing single curl superset
(Bar/dumbbell, respectively)
Incline Bench Alternate Dumbbell curl
Standing Straight Bar Curl
Triceps Pull-Down/
Single Dumbbell Kickbacks
Dumbbell Overhead Extensions
(Or flat skullcrushers, whichever makes you burn. I wouldn’t HATE a superset)
If superset 3x12/20
Triceps dip

Day 4: Shoulders

Barbell Military Press
Dumbbell Side Raises
(Advanced: With every lift, torque the plate once left, and once right, as you would a steering wheel)
Shrugs (Dumbbell for the intermediates, barbell for the advanced)

Day 5: Legs
Barbell Squat
Seated Leg Raises
Walking Lunges (Barbell over shoulder for advanced, dumbbell at your sides for intermediate)
Ten steps to and fro, where each lunge is counted as a single rep
Hamstring Curls
The King in the North
(A lightweight lunge/squat combination, you will perform a left and right lunge, followed by a squat, this is one rep.)

There you have it, Saurs, the coming months will be painful, be through it you will be vastly condition to withstand massive amounts of punishment.

If you have any inquiries or notes, I'd love to hear them, not implement them, but hear them.

Contact me:

Twitter: @HakeemJomah

And Godspeed, Veggiesaurs. It is good to be back!