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New Year's Resolutions brings Foot Pain

You've signed up for the gym membership. You've bought new workout clothes and shoes. You've made a promise to yourself to stick to your New Year's resolution to exercise and lose weight.

You hit the gym, you work out hard for a week, then you wake up one morning and pain is shooting through your heel. Exercise now hurts so much that you stay home on the couch!

Yes, 2014 is here, and many of us will be making those famous New Year resolutions. I'd like to suggest that this may be a good time for us to review this past year's "Fitness" goals to assess what we accomplished, what we didn't and what we would like to accomplish in the new year ahead. While losing weight is the number one resolution, exercising more makes it by itself to the top five for resolutions.

People who have made exercise their New Year's resolution might find their enthusiasm catching up with them on the track in the form of foot and ankle pain.

Soon after the last gulp of New Year's champagne, podiatrists see the annual influx of patients with foot pain caused by exercise. The most common problems are heel pain, pinched nerves and sore Achilles tendons.

When starting a new activity, gradually increase the time and duration. Don't go full force to start, take a day of rest in between workouts initially, be sure to warm up and include stretches before and after. The most common conditions seen due to a sudden increase in activity are:

Heel pain

Most heel pain cases are caused by plantar fasciitis. Podiatrist surgeons recommend athletic shoes or insoles that support the arch and cushion the heel. Buy shoes designed for the sport.

To treat heel pain, first trying icing the bottom of the foot before bed

Performing stretching exercises two to three times a day can also help. Sit on the floor barefoot with the knees straight. Hook a towel around the toes of the foot. Pull back on the towel, count to 10, and then relax. Repeat several times.

Pinched nerves

Have your feet measured before you buy athletic shoes. Foot and ankle surgeons say many people wear shoes that are a half-size too tight. Exercising in tight shoes can cause a neuroma, or a pinched nerve. Patients with this condition say they feel pain in the ball of their foot and tingling in their third and fourth toes.

Achilles tendon pain

Instead of going from couch potato to a high intensity workout, doctors recommend easing into a new exercise routine. Try to alternate a hard workout one day with an easy workout the next.

New Year's exercisers who ignore this advice risk Achilles tendonitis. The back of the foot becomes tender and painful.

When Achilles tendon pain occurs, foot and ankle surgeons recommend first using RICE therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation).

Additional advice

Consult a physician or trainer before starting a new exercise routine.

Foot pain doesn't have to sabotage New Year's resolutions to exercise. Listen to your body. If pain in the foot or ankle lasts five to seven days in a row, see a podiatrist. They'll be expecting you.

Let's also review the components of fitness so that we can decide which areas we need to improve and focus on most in the New Year. Then we can set about designing a well rounded routine. But what exactly does being fit mean? Fitness has several components, and when we increase our fitness, let's not forget that we increase our health too!

The Components of Fitness:

Cardiovascular Fitness: This can be estimated by a submaximal-stress test at our local gym, or measured by a stress test in a doctors office. It determines how efficiently our lungs and heart deliver oxygen to the cells of our body. The higher the efficiency, the more workload we can produce. Example, we can walk up a flight of stairs without losing our breath, or without our legs getting tired? Can't? Most likely, if we can't, our fitness level isn't as high as someone who can. Another indicator is having a low resting heart rate, and normal blood pressure. Usually after participating in an aerobic exercise program regularly, we can more easily walk up stairs, and our resting heart rate and blood pressure lowers.

Strength: How strong are we? Strength is an important component to our health also. Strong muscles not only help us in our daily activities, but they help us to keep our bones and joints functioning without pain and injury. Our strength levels are usually measured by how much resistance or weight can we lift. Another type of strength that is a component of fitness is muscular endurance. It is equally important to be able to lift our bag of groceries, as it is to be able to carry them for a few blocks (at least a block or up a flight of those stairs?). Muscular endurance is our body's ability to produce workload. Not just a single effort.

Flexibility: How flexible are we? While we shouldn't expect to bring our toes of one leg to our ears while standing like a ballerina, it is important to be able to bend and lift an object without straining our back and hamstrings and other body parts. Each joint of our body along with its muscles has a "range of motion" which allows us to move the way our bodies are meant to, pain and injury free, that is.

Body Composition: This correlates to healthy lean weight vs. unhealthy fatty tissue weight. How much body fat do we have versus lean mass? Dieticians use another measurement to determine the fat/health connection called BMI. Most of us already know that the higher our weight goes above the desired range, the higher our "risk for disease" connection becomes.

These are the components of fitness. They each have an important connection to our health and healthy living aside from just being in shape. They are all an important part of an exercise program. Do we see a component of fitness that needs more of our attention? Now's the time to review our needs and pick a place to begin. I also believe in one step, one change at a time, and exercise can give us a great positive focus instead of just dieting. And what could be a better time to start than now, with a New Year beginning.

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