Dr. Akwasi Amponsah: 4 Tips for Athletes to Prepare for Summer

Akwasi P. Amponsah, MD, Interventional Pain Physician at The Spine & Pain Institute of New York -   Print  |


FitnessDr. Akwasi Amponsah, a fellowship trained interventional pain management physician at The Spine & Pain Institute of New York, prior fitness clinician and soccer enthusiast talks about exercise.


Winter is finally over and as everyone is preparing for summer; many are starting to train after a long hiatus. The warmer weather can be an inspiration for many to begin or re-start their exercise routines. While most people are aware of the importance of warming up, stretching, and cooling down, there are a few key factors to keep in mind as you get started.

1.    Don't push yourself too hard in the beginning.


Many people start training regimens or exercise programs with too much intensity. High intensity training is something that the body should be given a chance to gradually adjust to. Age and fitness levels are determinants in what can be too intense for you or not. However, one should typically be able to recover from a training session in a day or two, especially in the beginning. If your body is taking much longer to recover, it may indicate that you pushed it a little too hard, or in extreme cases, injured yourself.


2.    Be mindful of your recovery.


The time period after the workout is when your body rests and repairs itself, preparing for the next physically stressful stimulus. What most people don't know is that the biggest fitness gains are realized during the recovery process. Muscle that is torn from weight training is repaired and strengthened. Cardio fitness readjusts itself to a more efficient state, and metabolism increases causing the body to burn more fat when you AREN'T exercising. The important thing to remember is to truly allow your body to rest and be able to do a little bit more during your next training session.


3.    Increase intensity gradually with each training session.


If you trained properly and recovered properly, you should be able to do MORE every time you train, or that performing the same tasks become easier. Slowly but surely you will be able to do more with less effort. Lift a little bit more weight, or add more repetitions to each set. Run a little bit longer, or run the same distance faster. In no time you will do considerably more, while requiring less rest.


4.    Exercise is a process, and each phase of the process is equally important.


Every part of the training process, warming up and stretching, cooling down, and rest are integral parts that should not be ignored. Besides experiencing less than optimal fitness gains, skipping or shortening any step in the process can contribute to injuries.


Insufficient warming up and stretching makes the body less pliable to abrupt and sudden moves. Not cooling down and just abruptly stopping your workout negatively affects your recovery process (Imagine a car suddenly hitting the brakes hard). Training too intensely may cause the need for more recovery time. If you train without sufficient recovery time your body hasn't replenished and you get tired and sluggish more quickly.


As a pain management physician, I see a correlation between a lot of training injuries and pain management.


Failure to exercise caution while training and/or improper training techniques may lead to muscle or joint sprains, skeletal fractures and other injuries that may lead to acute or chronic pain conditions.


Most commonly, I see a lot of eager, younger athletes or patients who overdo their workout or train improperly and frequently end up with lumbosacral (lower back) pain, neck pain, or shoulder pain. These pain syndromes may come from lumbar herniated discs, myofascial pain (a chronic pain from multiple trigger points), cervical herniated discs or ligament tears in the shoulders. Although some of these conditions may be treated within a short period of time, others may require prolonged and comprehensive treatment including physical therapy, pain medications, or injections.


As a prior fitness clinician and a current avid soccer player, I can sympathize with the dedication, demands and hard work it takes to begin training, especially after a long hiatus during the cold season. You must be cautious, disciplined and knowledgeable of the training exercises you intend to do. This will help prevent any exercise-related injuries and help to stay pain-free. It is also recommended to consult a fitness trainer if need be to assist in creating an individualized training program catered to your training goals and needs. As a pain physician, I am available to answer any questions pertaining to acute or chronic pain syndromes of the axial spine and work with you to treat your pain syndrome. Let's get pain free and let's stay active!


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