Tracking Your Heart Rate With Exercise

During exercise you can track how hard you are working by your heart rate. Find your maximum heart rate by using the equation 220- your age.

For moderate intensity exercise, aim for a heart rate of 64%-76% of your maximum heart rate.

For high intensity exercise, aim for a heart rate of 77%-93% of your maximum heart rate.

If you perform the same cardiovascular exercise at the same intensity and time frame, as you track your heart rate you will notice it will not get as high overtime. This is because your cardiovascular fitness is improving. You want to progress your exercise every approximate week to continue to challenge yourself and improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Dr. Taylor checking her heart rate during exercise

Stair Negotiation Physics

Many people with pain in the front of their knee comment that going down stairs is more challenging and painful than going up. Let’s take a quick look at why that is!

In the images below, Dr. Scott compares the forces at work when going up vs. down a step. The yellow arrow indicates the force of gravity and the green arrow is the force placed through the kneecap. A larger arrow = greater force, and as you can see the higher degree of knee bend when going down creates a higher force, and thus more stress, on the knee. This can cause increased pain and make descending steps quite challenging for those with a painful knee condition.

Written by Dr. Scott Newberry

Dr. Scott going up the step
Dr. Scott going down the step

Is Muscle Soreness Normal After Exercise?

The answer is YES! Muscle soreness after exercise is called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). This happens when you exercise a muscle that has not been used stressfully in awhile. The soreness results from tearing and or stress on the muscle fibers and as the body repairs these small tears your muscles become stronger. After exercise, you will normally feel muscle soreness anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after the activity. The intensity of the muscle soreness you experience will depend on how intense your workout was and if that muscle group has experienced a workout before of this variety/intensity.

If your symptoms of muscle soreness linger longer than 72 hours and either get worse or stay the same, then you want to consult with a medical professional. The reason for this is your exercise possibly caused a muscle strain, ligamentous sprain, or injury.

How To Make Consistent Exercise Goals That Stick

With the new year upon us, everyone is setting out to start on those New Year’s Resolutions. Every year, exercise and practicing healthier habits are always in the top few resolutions and so we at Harbor PT want to give you some tips on how to make those resolutions into habits and help you create a healthier and happier life!

1. Set realistic goals – while the goal of going to the gym 7 days a week sounds great, it is best to be honest with yourself  and set goals based on your daily schedule and current fitness/health level. Setting too lofty of a goal can sometimes become overwhelming and lead to discouragement or can lead to injury.

2. Join a class- finding a form of exercise that works for you is important and joining a class can make exercise fun, hold you accountable, and teach you safe exercise habits all while being in a group of people with similar interests and goals.

3. Have a fitness buddy- setting fitness/health goals with a friend can make working toward your goals less intimidating and more enjoyable and make you more accountable. You don’t necessarily have to make the same exact goals, but even working toward similar goals as a team can help make the process more effective and enjoyable.

4. Start small- you can set a big goal for yourself, but as stated above, it is important to be realistic and to be honest while setting your goals. If you want to set that big goal, try breaking down that goal into smaller milestones; this will help keep you motivated while making progress. 

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help- starting something new is exciting but it can also be a little intimidating. But there are always people around to help you reach your goals. Whether that be a friend to help motivate you, a dietician to help you make smart choices in changing your nutrition, a personal trainer to help ensure safe exercise, or a physical therapist to help address a current/chronic injury so that you can continue exercising safely, there is always help available, so use it to your advantage.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Electrolyte Essentials

While we all know that it is important to drink enough water (sweating or not), what some people don’t know is that sometimes water isn’t enough to keep us hydrated as we sweat during exercise.

When we sweat, we aren’t just losing water, we are also losing what are called electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential minerals to the body that help maintain the body’s internal functioning (keeping a proper pH balance and ensuring proper nervous system functioning), keep our muscles performing properly, and ensure adequate hydration.

Sports drinks are commonly used to help replenish electrolytes after a big sweat session, but before you go grab a Gatorade or Powerade, make sure you look at the nutrition label. Make sure the sports drink, or other electrolyte solution, isn’t high in sugar. The increased sugar levels may make the drink taste better, but it won’t be as helpful hydrating you.

Not a sports drink fan? No problem, there are other alternatives to gaining back those lost minerals. Fruits and veggies that are high in calcium, potassium and magnesium are good go to’s. And while sodium (salt) is also something we need to replenish after a workout, don’t reach for the bag of chips, but rather have a handful of nuts or a small bowl of pretzels.

Written by Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Cold Weather and Joint Pain

With the fall season in full swing, colder weather is well on its way. A common question amongst people with joint pain is does the weather actually play a role in my joint pain? The answer to this is yes (to an extent). While it may not be the sole reason for your joint pain, changes in the weather can have certain effects on your musculoskeletal system. 

Take colder temperatures for example, a decrease in temperature can cause our muscular tissue to tighten up which in turn can restrict joint movement, causing an increased sense of stiffness in the joints. Decreased temperatures can also cause the fluid in your joints to thicken slightly, which can decrease its ability to move around the joints as freely as it would in warmer weather, causing that sense of stiffness. 

Another element of weather that has a role in joint pain is atmospheric pressure. Before a shift in the weather (rain or snow), the pressure of the air experiences a significant drop. A drop in atmospheric pressure allows the pressure within the body to expand. This internal rise in pressure can cause subsequent increased pressure in the joints, causing increased aches and pains. So when a friend predicts rain because their knees are aching, you may want to make sure you have an umbrella on hand in the days that follow. 

Just because colder weather is coming to stay for a while, does not mean you should have to live with that increased pain and stiffness in your joints until Spring. This is a great time to get up and move, as increased physical activity will help increase blood flow to your muscles and help warm up those joints.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan staff physical therapist at HPT

Let’s Run

A lot of people ask, “does my running form matter?”. The answer is YES. And while there is not one “right” way to run, there are certain elements of your form that you should be aware of to help you get the most out of your run. Making these small adjustments to your form may also help you begin to see an increase in your breathing ability, endurance and speed during your runs.

  1. Head – keep your head and neck in a neutral position to decrease the strain on your neck.
  2. Shoulders and Arms -keep your shoulders relaxed, keep your arms slightly bent at the elbow, don’t let your hands come up above your chest, avoid crossing your arms in front of you (this will help with your breathing and avoid cramps!).
  3. Trunk- while you run you should keep a slight forward trunk lean to help propel your body forward, forward lean does NOT equal hunching, hunching over should always be avoided to help optimize breathing.
  4. Knees- be sure to drive your knees up and forward to help propel you forward and also help avoid tripping.
  5. Feet and Ankles- try to land on your midfoot/forefoot when running rather than your heels (this will help keep you moving forward and avoid increase force/stress going up your leg).

If you or someone you know is interested in a running assessment please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our PTs would be happy to help you!

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Think Before you Lift

No matter what your occupation is, it is very likely that you pick things up (and put them down) from lower surfaces at least once throughout the day (both in and out of work). Whether it be packages, weights, children, groceries, something you dropped on the floor, etc., knowing how to properly lift is extremely important for your physical health.

When lifting, it is important to remember the 5 L’s:

1. Load- know your limits! If an object is too heavy, do not be afraid to ask for help.

2. Lever- for heavier objects, it is important to decrease the lever arm (your arm length usually). Lifting something closer to your body will decrease the  strain on your back and also make it easier to lift.

3. Lordosis- always do your best to maintain a neutral spine when lifting and avoid bending over (even if it is for something of little weight). It is also important to remember to minimize the amount of twisting you do when lifting something. Rather than twisting to put a box/groceries/etc on a table, try doing a small pivot.

4. Lungs- believe it or not, breathing is important in a heavy lift. A good rule of thumb is to take a deep inhale when preparing for the lift and then exhale during the lift. The biggest thing to remember is to NOT hold your breath when lifting something heavy.

5. Legs- you’ve probably heard it loads of times, but here it is again – lift with your legs NOT your back. Your legs can produce more power during a heavy lift than your back. Using your legs can also help you maintain a neutral spine.

So whether you are at the gym lifting weights, picking up your phone, lifting up groceries, or picking up your young one, remember these tips and your back will be sure to thank you.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Rules of Stretching

As you exercise and play sports, do you take time to stretch? As most people are short on time, the first thing to get cut from a workout is the stretching component. As physical therapists, we recommend that you don’t cut the stretching out as this can lead to an injury. Check out the stretching rules below to learn what you should focus on when you stretch:

  1. Perform a dynamic stretch (no holds) prior to your workout that mimics the sport or exercise you are about to participate in.
  2. Perform a dynamic stretch for a minimum of 5 minutes prior to your workout.
  3. After your work out, perform static stretches (hold stretches).
  4. Perform static stretches in all the major muscles groups you just used during your workout.
  5. Hold static stretches for 15-60 seconds for 2 repetitions each.

In summary, you can complete dynamic and static stretching for your workout in approximately 10 minutes. That 10 minutes is crucial to not skip as this could save you from an injury that could last weeks or months.

Written by Dr. Amanda Macht- owner of Harbor Physical Therapy

3 Easy Stretches for Heel Pain

If you suffer from heel pain, it may be caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the sole of the foot from your heel to your toes. Repeated stress to the foot can cause inflammation to that band and cause sharp pain in your heel. This pain may feel worse first thing in the morning or when you are on your feet for long periods of time.

One part of treatment for plantar fasciitis includes stretching the tissue and muscles in the foot and calf to decrease tension around the heel. When performing these stretches, try to hold them for 30 seconds each, repeat 3 times, and perform them 2-3 times a day.

Seated Stretch- while sitting with your foot crossed over your other leg, pull your foot and toes back towards you.

Runner’s Stretch- while standing in front of a wall, place the foot that hurts back behind you and push your heel towards the ground.

Stair Stretch- while standing on the edge of a step, drop your heels down until a stretch is felt in the calves.

If you would like to learn more about how to get rid of your heel pain, contact Harbor Physical Therapy