News: Be extremely careful with extreme conditioning programs
Story by Spc. Leon Cook
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Fitness magazines, websites, and gyms are littered with advertisements for extreme conditioning programs. These programs focus on high intensity and high volume exercises with short rest periods in between. ECPs can help soldiers burn calories, build muscle, decrease body fat, increase strength and stamina, and improve coordination and agility. However, they have their risks.
“If extreme conditioning programs aren’t done appropriately, they can lead to injury,” said Maj. Dan Rhon, a physical therapist at Madigan Army Medical Center.
Common injuries from ECPs include muscle strains, torn ligaments, stress fractures, and tendonitis. They can also cause a potentially life-threatening condition called rhabdomyolysis, where muscle fibers break down and enter the bloodstream causing kidney damage.
The first time I tried an ECP, it didn’t end well. I was in Iraq and hadn’t been doing PT on a regular schedule, but my section leader decided we would find a time that worked for everyone to start one of these new programs.
I can’t remember what the first workout of the day was, but I remember I didn’t finish. In fact, my buddy was helping me with a set of pullups when I dropped to the ground and shoved my way to the door so I could throw up. That was the end of my workout, and I didn’t have full range of motion in my arms for the next week.
Rhon would immediately recognize this as one of the major drawbacks of ECPs.
“A lot of people with various levels of physical fitness get thrown together into the same program.” Rhon said. “The key point is that you need to work your way up to each activity.”
Talk to your health care provider before entering into an extreme conditioning program. Once you start, gradually increase the duration and intensity of the workout.
According to the Performance Triad Leader’s Guide and Planner, leaders can help by monitoring their soldiers for signs of overexertion. Leaders can also reduce the risk of injury by reminding soldiers that it’s OK to work out hard, but they shouldn’t try to push through pain to the point of injury.
If leaders and soldiers are extremely careful with extreme conditioning programs, they can be worthwhile additions to a physical readiness training program.
For more information, visit www.armymedicine.mil.