Inspired by the Rio Olympics

Inspired by the Rio Olympics
Friday 5 August 2016

The Olympics are here again and it’s hard not to be inspired by the athletes of the World competing at the highest level. These athletes often make sport look easy, even effortless. It’s enough to make some of us want to get up and kick start our own training, or work harder with our existing programs. However, don’t get too carried away too quickly!

Whatever your discipline the most important point to remember is to set achievable goals, and aim for a gradual progression over a period of time. This helps to avoid injuries or over training. Are you a budding field specialist like Mo Farrah, Katerina Johnson-Thompson or Jennifer Ennis? Is racquet sport more appealing like Andy Murray or Serena Williams?, do you fancy two wheels like Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome (or no wheels if you saw the Tour De France!), Tom Daley, Michael Phelps or Hannah Miley may make you want to dive in to your local pool or the Brownlee brothers may inspire you to do a bit of everything!

If it’s been a while since you last donned your trainers, trunks or cycling shoes etc, it is sensible to contact your local GP for a medical review before commencing exercise. Most local gyms have coaches to help you design a tailored program and keep you within the correct cardiac training zones appropriate to your age. It’s never too late to start.

Here are a few basic tips to increase your chances of success:

Choose an appropriate sport/ activity

I commonly see patients with knee or hip injuries trying to perform sports that are not in keeping with their body shape/ fitness level. If you have a raised body mass index or have knee/ hip problems then impact sport is not for you. It is more likely to cause problems long term. A more practical option is to choose an activity that is load bearing and non impact. Examples include swimming/ cycling and rowing. Once your body shape and fitness level has improved, it may be reasonable to start impact activities at a later stage.

Buy a heart rate monitor or power meter

If you want to ensure you are training adequately and enough these are invaluable tools. They also help to set goals and log your training to see your improvement. They can be surprisingly addictive and help to maintain you interest and determination to get into shape. There are many types for all budgets on the market.

Chose an activity that is nearby and accessible, preferably on the way to work! If your chosen activity is not convenient, then as the cold dark nights draw in, it’s likely you’ll lose interest.

Get a training buddy!!! You are more likely to regularly train if you have fixed times and someone to meet.

“I can’t train, I have knee/ hip/ back arthritis! I don't want to make it worse!!” This statement is incorrect.

Appropriate load bearing exercise helps to keep joints supple, ensures the joint cartilage is healthier and the muscles stronger. It also has significant general health and mental well being benefits including lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and recent published data demonstrates improvement in Dementia and Parkinson symptoms. 

Technical Tips:

Back: Avoid twisting motion/ activities with ongoing back problems as this increases the intervertebral disc pressures and can cause problems with disc protrusions. Simple core stability exercises concentrating on flexion and extension initially are the safest movements. Once the core stability improves, gentle twisting can be incorporated.

Hips: Avoid hip flexion above 90 degrees particularly with internal rotation (toes pointing in) of the hip as this can aggravate hip (groin) symptoms such as hip impingement and labral damage. Lateral hip symptoms can be a sign of trochanteric bursitis or tendinitis.

Knees: Avoid deep squats or knee flexion beyond the thighs being parallel to the floor. When the knee is flexed above 90 degrees the posterior part of the meniscus (cartilage) bears the bulk of the weight and is at risk of damage, particularly if worn already. Pivoting or twisting is also a movement that can cause knee injuries. Adequate warming up is crucial to prevent or reduce these injuries.

If symptoms persist after initial rest, elevation, ice and anti-inflammatories, then an Orthopaedic review is recommended. Further information can been obtained from or by completing the online form.

Gordon Higgins is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Mount Stuart Hospital specialising in Hip and Knee problems including Sports Injuries and Joint Replacement Surgery. He qualified in 1998 and was appointed to his South Devon Consultant Post in 2010 following a 12 month International Fellowship via the University of Toronto, Canada. He enjoys training & competing in triathlons and cycling Sportives.

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