Source: Straits Times
For many Singaporean sons, national service is associated with back-breaking, high-impact physical activities that can mess up your back and knees. If you want to complete your NS and subsequent reservist cycles without a hitch, you’ll need to be in tip-top physical condition.
Unless chao geng is part of your strategy, here are some practical tips to ensure that pain doesn’t get in your way.
Start your physical training early and maintain it
Before you enlist in the army or report for reservist, it’s a good idea to start exercising way before the physically demanding activities kick in. Even though training is progressive, your body still takes time to adjust. You’ll have an easier time if your body is ready for it.
Your back and knees are the parts that are going to take most of the beating, so if you’re not already going to the gym or just want to get through training without a hitch, consider running and weight training that targets your back and core.
Run, baby, run
Start small, maybe just ten minutes three times a week, and then work up to about twenty minutes per session. This gets your knees used to impact and conditions it for increased intensity when you enlist or return to camp.
Strengthen your back
Bearing heavy load is part and parcel of training. Marching over long distances with full packs on your back and vaulting through the SOC with your rifle in tow are just some of the ways that can wear out your knees and back. Furthermore, without support from your back stabiliser muscles, your spine may gradually be forced out of alignment from carrying too much weight, resulting in scoliosis and slipped discs.
Shore up your back with back and core exercises, such as pulldowns, deadlifts and cable crunches. If you don’t have access to a gym, try simple bodyweight exercises such as pullups, back extensions and planks. All you need is thirty minutes each session. Your back will thank you when the intensity of military training sets in.
Land with your knees bent
Generations of PTIs, officers, enciks and sergeants nag about this all the time, but some people still fail to land with good form and land themselves in the hospital.
With the load you bear on you and the height that you are required to jump from, the impact generated on your body can be up to five times the sum of your weight and everything else you are carrying on you. If only your knees are going to absorb all that impact, you may develop knee issues such as patellar tendinitis or anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Worse, the impact may radiate through your spine, leading to issues like slipped discs.
Practice landing with your knees bent at ground level. Get used to the motion before progressing to jumping off a height.
Rest when you can
Not every vocation allows you to rest well, but when you do have the time to rest, rest. This is especially true for fresh NSFs, when the training is intense and spans weeks at a stretch.
You’ll be more alert and able to focus better with sufficient rest. That translates to fewer incidences of mistakes and injuries. It also helps your muscles and joints recover from the daily beatings of training, reducing the chances of injuries.
You’ve got to move it, move it
This is to the unsung heroes in the headquarters: stand up and move! Unless you’re excused standing, there shouldn’t be any reason for you to be seated from the start to the end of your shift.
Even though you may be indoors doing administrative work, you’re not spared the dangers of physical injuries. Sitting for prolonged periods of time may lead to slipped discs in the long run. That’s because our body tends to get lazy and slouch over time. If you’re unaware of your slight postural changes and proactively mitigate it, your spine may get out of alignment, and that’s the start of your back problems.
Try stepping away from your seat every 45 minutes to an hour and perform some light stretches for five to ten minutes. A proven and effective way to prevent slouching is to swap your office chair for a medicine ball. If you want to stay upright, you’ll have to work for it.
The only side effect of sitting on a ball is those hot, six-pack abs you may develop over time.
Dr. Jenny Li is the appointed chairman of Medical Committee for NABBA WFF Singapore.