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Calf Strain Rehabilitation

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Joe Hallett answers your questions

I'm recovering from a mild calf strain.
Can you recommend some cardio exercises to keep my fitness levels up?

First things first; understand the damage to your calf, you may benefit from a sports massage or a visit to a physiotherapist. If you have experienced mild strain before and are sure this is the same then there are various levels of self treatment you can apply.

R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is the classic treatment for soft tissue injury.

Static Stretching is an essential part of the muscle fibre repair process. This should not cause sharp pain and each stretch should last at least 20s until you feel a release (don't bounce).

You didn't indicate if you feel pain on extension or contraction of the calf muscles, or perhaps due to the jolt of stepping. I'll assume it is on shortening of the calf muscles/pointing the toes (plantar flexion).

Cycling is often used as rehab exercise for runners as the range of movement is reduced and a good CV workout can be achieved with minimal impact. Swimming is usually a suitable option, if you have a pool nearby. Cross Trainers can also be used effectively - it really depends on the specifics of your injury. Warm-up first and give each a gentle try, but listen to your body; if you feel any recurrence of the strain symptoms then stop immediately and stretch out.

If you're still not ready for this then you may have suffered a moderate strain (grade 2) and can expect 4-6 weeks healing time before fully running again. If this is the case, my advice would be to focus on other exercises which raise the heart rate significantly in the mean time.

If you're based nearby I'd be happy take you through a programme of suitable exercises and explore why the strain occurred in the first place.

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I don't have much time to exercise
What's the best way to lose fat?

This is a really difficult question to answer concisely, but here are some guidelines. Contact LONDONfit if you'd like more detailed advice.

There are plenty of theories that claim to be the best way to lose fat. The reality is that fat loss is down to energy balance. That is, you've got to use more energy than you take in through food.

It's important to note that eating fat does not make you fat, but excessive calorie intake does. Long term strategies advise you not to eliminate fat or carbohydrates from your diet, these food groups are essential to your health.

Use the proportions below as a guide to a balanced diet;

  • 33% Bread, Cereals & Potatoes
  • 33% Fruit & Vegetables
  • 15% Meat, Fish & other Proteins
  • 12% Milk & Dairy Foods
  •   8% Fats & Sugary Foods

To lose 1lb a week you'll need a negative calorie balance of 500 per day, so keep your daily calorific intake below what you need to maintain weight (UK Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) are 1940 calories for women, 2550 calories for men).

Therefore reduce the portion size of a balanced diet and increase your activity level, snack healthily, keep yourself hydrated (helps to flush out toxins) and reduce alcohol intake (alcoholic drinks tend to have little or no nutritional value and while the liver is busy metabolising alcohol, it is unable to metabolise fat).

If you're not used to exercising, try the following to get you started;

  • 2x 20 minute Cardio Interval Session per week (30s running, 30s walking)
  • 2x 40 minute Circuit Training sessions per week (warm up, core exercises, circuit training with free weights/fitness ball followed by cool down)

You don't need a gym (although that might work for you), just a mat, a fitness ball and some free weights and you can be well on your way to a steady and sustainable fat loss regime which will keep you healthier and happier.

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I just can't seem to get motivated to exercise.
What can I do about it?

We all struggle from time to time to achieve our fitness goals or overcome a plateau. Knowing how best to move up to the next level and attain your goals is what you come to me for. Here's a little insight into how to maintain the drive for success.

Mix up your routines to avoid boredom and set your sites on achieveable goals.
I favour the use of NASM S.M.A.R.T. Goals:

  • Specific - All goals should be defined
  • Measurable - Establish a quantifiable target to measure
  • Attainable - Goals should be challenging, but possible to visualise success
  • Reward based - A desirable reward for when you achieve that goal
  • Timeframe - Set a timeframe, or even better, a target date to succeed by

Some main points to remember are that results are a demonstration of overall consistency, so don't get demotivated by one slip-up, with an unhealthy meal or night out. If you're consistent with the workouts and diet, the results will follow.

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