April 7th is World Health Day and, in light of the recent COVID-19 situation, we thought it would be a great time to talk about health. While good hygiene is important for good health (please wash your hands all year, not just when there’s a virus going around) we want to focus on preparing and maintaining your body to meet the demands of the job site.
Making a living performing skilled, physical work means completing jobs that require accuracy, strength, flexibility, coordination and endurance. Much like traditional sports athletes, the body is under daily pressure to physically perform, opening the door to injury or burn out and making health a top priority. These similarities are why we often refer to members of our community as Industrial Athletes. They require a similar physical preparedness, just for work, not sport.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up four ways to stay healthy so you can steer clear of injuries and keep executing on the job.
Job Site Joint Health
Whether you’re installing a water heater or ascending a tree, you may not realize that you’re putting the same amount of stress on your body as, say, a professional football player and because of that, skip a “warm up” before the work day altogether. However, key findings in data gathered by the Department of Labor indicated that sprains and strains were the leading nature of injury and illness in every major industry sector. Both can be prevented with… you guessed it, warming up.
Before jumping into the duties of the day, set aside 15 - 30 minutes to get your body ready. We promise, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. Additionally, if you’re wearing your super mobile T2 WerkPants, you’ll be able to easily complete nearly any warm up you can come up with.
First, try to loosen up your body by doing something light, like walking for 10 minutes. Maybe survey the job site or park farther than necessary to elevate your heart rate. Next, stretch.
Stretching has a multitude of benefits for your body, especially your joints and muscles. Kyle Johnson, an Industrial Sports Medicine Professional, gives an overview we found hugely helpful, but here is the spark notes version:
Stretching increases muscle, body and blood temperature, which helps muscles contract and relax more quickly while improving elasticity, endurance and strength. It also increases range of motion, which reduces stiffness and promotes enhanced motions in the joints. Other notable benefits? Stretching reduces the stress on your heart, heightens your ability to concentrate and even prevents overheating.
We recommend practicing the stretches depicted in the graphic below. Finally, need some team building on site? Consider implementing a group stretch with your crew so everyone can stretch their way toward success.
Physical Work Shouldn’t Replace Exercise
It may seem daunting to try to factor a fitness routine into an already exhausting day, or feel redundant when you spend your day performing physical tasks, but allowing your body to move in diverse ways and strengthening areas that otherwise might not be getting used is vital to staying healthy. Most jobs tend to involve repetitive, strenuous activities that make you more susceptible to injury because they only work larger muscle groups. By not complimenting your day-to-day with development of your smaller stability muscles and core, you could put yourself at risk for injury.
For example, stronger abs and back muscles contribute to better balance. Which, in turn, contribute to a much lower chance of falling or getting injured. Try to incorporate core (abdominal, back and hip) strengthening exercises into your fitness routine. With YouTube and social media, it’s easy to do so from the comfort of home - no gym membership needed. For example, Brick Reilly (featured in the video) even uses his 15 minute work break to get moving in completely new ways and get his energy out.
But don’t stop there. Other low-impact exercises like walking, biking and swimming keep the heart rate up and get the body moving without pounding on joints.
Remember, being an Industrial Athlete is not about your weight. Nothing about the number on a scale can tell you if you’re healthy or not. What’s important is how you perform - on and off the job - regardless of your shape, size or weight.
Diet is 80% of the Battle
You can do all the right exercises and stretches, but if what goes into the body isn’t nourishing it and supporting those movements, your health is still at risk.
Let’s circle back to the idea of warming up and take it even further. Skip the fast food and quick, accessible lunches that more often than not probably leave you sluggish. Instead, meal prep. Meal prepping allows you to have control over what you’re eating and forces you to think purposefully. An easy go-to is a hearty carb paired with some protein or a wrap filled with cold cuts and greens. Simple to prepare, kind to the wallet and no microwave required
It’s probably not news to anyone that Calcium and Vitamin D keep your bones strong, but incorporating foods that carry a lot of these nutrients is vital when you’re an Industrial Athlete.
We asked our staff to contribute their favorite resources for nutritional recipes:
Rest & Recovery is KEY
Rest and recovery are essential factors of high-level performance for a variety of physical and mental reasons. Muscles need time to repair, rebuild and strengthen, while the mind needs time to hit the reset button, but what’s the difference between rest and recovery?
Resting is exactly what it sounds like: Getting enough sleep and allowing yourself to relax. Adequate levels of sleep provide mental health, hormonal balance and muscular recovery. Your body needs it to thrive, plain and simple. Don’t slack and give yourself seven to ten hours - that’s how much the average athlete needs.
Recovery, however, refers to actions taken to maximize your body’s repair. This includes hydration, posture, heat, ice and two things you’ve already seen here: stretching and getting enough nutrients. Dedicating time to these things will increase your ability to work harder, decrease your recovery time in the future and lower your risk of injury.
The easiest way to start the recovery process is hydration. Drinking adequate amounts of water will contribute to more efficient nutrient uptake, lower levels of stress on the heart and improved body function overall. To stay hydrated, follow the golden rule...no, not that one. Check your pee (Yup, we said look at your pee). If it’s clear to pale, you’re drinking enough H2O. The more golden it looks, the more water you need to drink.
Listen to your body in other ways too. Apply ice packs, heating pads or compression to areas that are worn out. Consider investing in a foam roller, if you don’t already have one, and develop a love/hate relationship with it. Love it by using it often and rolling out trigger points, hate it because while you do this it hurts so good, then love it again when you find relief. These 10 moves from Men’s Health will get you started on how to roll out properly.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to be selective with your activities. Say no to ones that will keep you from the path of rest and recovery and yes to the ones that will help, like meeting up with friends or spending time with family.
Health is a complicated and personal topic. There is no one “right” way to be healthy. However, we think your body will thank you when you pay closer attention to those four areas and we’ll thank you too. Truewerk aims to empower you to be the best you can be. That’s why we put so much thought into everything we make and why we want you to put thought into how you take care of yourself.
Comment below or tag us on Instagram @Truewerk if you’re incorporating any of these ideas into your daily life, have others we missed or have questions! Plus tag us in any pictures that show how you’re embracing your health, especially right now.