Serving your country can be a punishing business, and veterans pay the price in later years for all that wear and tear while in uniform.
“If your workout routine isn’t going so well due to serious or chronic pain, it might be time to stop and meet with a physician,” orthopedic surgeon Brian Carr, an 18-year Army veteran, tells AARP Veteran Report.
But with some niggling old injuries, it is often a case of making simple tweaks to your workout.
Ben Reale, an ultramarathoner who served as a Marine Corps officer, is an Atlanta-based personal trainer and nutrition coach. He explains to AARP Veteran Report readers how they can adjust for injuries while keeping fit:
Feet and ankles
The former Leatherneck says some veterans are so used to an all-or-nothing approach to fitness that they do too much too quickly and end up with a heel and foot condition called plantar fasciitis, involving the tendon that runs along the sole of your foot.
Ease into new exercises slowly. Often, balance is an issue.
Try this: Stand on one foot for five to 10 seconds and work up to three sets per foot. You can advance to raising your knee to hip height. For more advanced balance work to strengthen the feet, move a bent or extended knee out and to the sides. Try going barefoot to further work on stability.
Also try this: Drop your heel off the back of a stair to stretch your calf. “Work up to 60 seconds … it should be very gentle,” Reale says.
Squats are a key exercise in many workouts. “Squats are tough because what I’ve found is it’s very difficult for an older demographic to work their lower body, like their quads and hamstrings,” Reale says. “The flexibility is not there.” This can lead to knee and back pain.
Try this: Do an “isometric” exercise, which uses tension rather than contraction of a muscle. In this case, replace your squat with a wall sit, where you aren’t moving. You can also try a leg lift, or a glute bridge, in which you lie on your back with bent knees, squeezing and raising your butt off the ground, then back down.
Try this too: Instead of a lunge, which might aggravate old knee injuries, hold on to something stable and do 25 percent of the normal distance down in a lunge. Work within “whatever the pain-free range of motion” is, even if it’s a small movement, Reale says. It might take months, but eventually, you’ll notice that range expanding.