Fitness blunders and how to get in shape the right way

By Sgt. James J. Bunn, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentAugust 15, 2014

When an injury occurs, the recovery process can seem long and arduous, said Capt. Andrea Wolfe, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps, Physicians Assistant. When working towards recovery, it's better to follow the advice of health care providers, eat healthy and don't over estimate your capabilities.

The Army standardized its Physical Readiness Program in 2012 to help reduce the instances of injuries among Soldiers. According to the Army Field Manual 7-22, Army Physical Readiness Training, the program is designed to develop Soldiers to be physically capable and ready to perform their duties and to promote good health, resiliency and physical readiness through exercise.

Proper movement is also important, it helps avoid both chronic and acute injuries. Soldiers should study FM 7-22 and ensure they're performing the exercises correctly to prevent injury and help prepare them for the daily fitness routine.

Injuries happen when Soldiers create a program with little regard for preparation, progression, timing or how it fits in with the unit's mission, said Capt. Shane McDonald, a physical therapist at Madigan Army Medical Center. Leaders should make sure they know and follow the Army's PRT program.

Nutrition plays a large role and is important in maintaining complete physical fitness, particularly for any Soldier with a physically limiting injury, said McDonald. Besides fueling the body, it's essential in maintaining a healthy weight and helps reduce the level of stress on the body during physical activity, McDonald added.

"Sometimes Soldiers try to do more than they are capable of doing," said Wolfe. "A lot of the injuries I've seen are old and just get aggravated by training. Soldiers need to give themselves time to heal. Once they are healed they should progress gradually back to their level of fitness."

Soldiers often hurt themselves when they try to lift too much weight, do too many repetitions or use improper form while exercising, McDonald said. The most common fitness related injuries in the Army are lower back, knee and shoulder pain, he added.

Soldiers can treat simple pains on their own by protecting the injury, resting it, applying ice packs, wrapping it with a compression bandage and elevating it. If simple techniques don't help Wolfe said to go see a health care provider.

Whether the problem is a small muscle strain or a massive compound fracture that requires surgery, the common thread to getting well is motivation. Wolfe said she has seen Soldiers completely recover from major surgeries because of their desire to get better.

"When it comes to recovery, it's not just what the providers do," said Wolfe. "It's also the level of motivation the Soldier has. If they don't want to get back to 100% they're not going to get there. Nutrition plays a major part. You have to cut back on all the fats and foods that will potentially make you gain weight, especially if you can't do cardio workouts to burn those calories off."

Avoiding exercise doesn't keep injuries from happening and definitely doesn't help overall health. Working out on a regular basis increases fitness levels and can help prevent future injuries from happening, said Wolfe.

"When we exercise correctly we not only have the best prescription to remain pain free but we will also perform better," said McDonald. "When we run, ruck (hike) and jump with a poor movement pattern we begin to stress tissue. To stay physically healthy we need to focus on having mobility while being stable."