Injuries SUCK! Here’s How to Avoid Them.
Let’s start with the most common causes of injuries.
#1 Overuse: Overuse or repetitive movements is the number-one cause of sports injuries. Runners, swimmers, cyclists, and tennis players are particularly susceptible to overuse injuries, including tennis elbow, tendinitis, shin splints and shoulder impingement.
#2: Improper Equipment: Don’t show off and try to use a weight or machine that is too advanced or heavy for you, lower back or arm pain will follow. Ill-fitting helmets for cyclists and shoes for runners also cause injuries.
#3 New or Too Much Activity: Starting a new activity or increasing your duration or intensity of activity too quickly can also result in injury. If you start a new exercise always build slowly as you will be using new muscles or combinations of muscles.
#4: Fatigue: Tired muscles are a common cause of muscle pulls and strains. Take rest days and cross-train, don’t do the same exercise everyday or you will fatigue those muscles resulting in injury.
#5: No Warmup: Muscle cramping and pulls and strains are often the result of jumping into an activity without properly easing the muscles into it. Warming up provides blood and oxygen to the body, allowing the muscles to work more efficiently.
#6: Technique: Especially when lifting weights, simple looking at Instagram is not going to help you perfect your form. Doing a strength exercise improperly can cause strains, pulls, even breaks. Endurance activities such as running, biking, and swimming also have simple but essential techniques, learn them or you will eventually be on the sidelines.
Now that we have established the common causes, let’s talk solutions!
#1 Dynamic Warmup, Do Not Before Your Workout: Many think that stretching is something they should do before their workout to avoid injuries but that is a myth. You should do a DYNAMIC warmup before your workouts. Dynamic warmup can be a fast paced walk, easing into the cardio machine by starting at a lower level resistance, leg swings, arm circles, body-weight squats, body-weight lunges, jumping jacks. Anything to get your muscles warmed up and heart rate slowly increasing. Stretching is important for improving mobility, but not necessarily for injury prevention. So, yes, stretching can be beneficial, but it’s not all it takes to prevent a strain or tear. Save the stretches for after your entire session. If you pull or strain something, it’s most likely because you’re trying to do too much, too fast.
#2 Build Strength Slowly: If your muscles are too weak, even simple exercises can push them too far and cause you serious problems or pain. Older adults and people who are obese often have poor balance from lack of muscle strength. When you are unconditioned you are at higher risk of injury because you will often be unable to perform the exercises properly or overexert yourself. If you work out regularly, you should still ease into new exercises and routines. Just because some of your muscle groups are strong doesn’t mean you can work other muscle groups just as hard. Patience is key. The number one cause of injury is people doing too much too soon. Make sure to ease into intensity, so walk before you jog, jog before you sprint. For strength, do body-weight exercises before, weighted exercises, try machines before moving to free weights.
#3 Proper Technique is Essential: Do it the right way from the beginning. There is no benefit from twisting and turning your body the wrong way or forcing your muscles to lift a weight or do an exercise you saw on Instagram. Learning the technique and the proper use of equipment should come first, before increasing the weight or intensity. Hire a personal trainer for one session to take you through the exercises in your workout program and correct flaws or mistakes in your form. If you don’t have a personal trainer, do your research, there are many websites and YouTube videos that will take you through exercises step by step. Reach out to your gym or run community with any questions and keep informed on the exercises you are doing and how you can improve.
#4 No Pain No Gain is WRONG: Muscle soreness after exercise is normal but you should not always be sore and doing the exercise itself shouldn’t hurt. You workout for your health and vitality, it should be fun! If it’s a painful experience, you are not only doing the exercise wrong but you are also going to burn out or quit! Rather than push your body into “pain” thinking you are going to gain, use proper technique and be patient. Getting stronger or running faster takes time and you will not achieve these goals if you are injured.
#5 REST days and Recovery: Injuries occur especially in those that don’t take a break and allow their body to rest and build back up. Take your rest days seriously. All the adaptations to training occur through your fueling, during rest and sleep. One way to make sure you are recovering is consuming the right foods. Consuming carbohydrates during long endurance exercise (cycling, running for hours) is essentially to keeping the body and mind from breaking down. Protein is required to repair muscle damage that can occur during exercise and protein is required for muscle growth after resistance training. So making sure you eat adequate amounts of calories, protein, carbs, and fat to fuel your workouts is going to not only help you improve performance but also avoid injury. Hydration is key for every fitness enthusiast but especially people who do endurance exercise. Our body is made primarily of water, and water helps carry nutrients, electrolytes and virtually every other substance in your body to your muscles and organs. As you exercise, your heart rate increases so your muscles can get a quick supply of blood and oxygen. But if you don’t drink enough water, this process becomes less efficient. The result can be muscle pain, spasms, cramps, slowed muscle growth and injury.
#6 Sleep: Sleep is the nourishment for repair and recovery. When it comes to taking care of your body and avoiding injury it’s not just exercising and eating right. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to improve our bodies’ ability to grow and repair tissue damage is key. The reason sleep is so helpful during the recovery process comes down to growth hormones and blood flow. Growth hormones stimulate muscle growth, aid in cell reproduction, cell regeneration and regulation of your body’s metabolism to literally repair any damage your body has had throughout the day. When asleep, your energy consumption is lower because your body and brain is at rest. This means more energy can be used to restore your bones and muscles, both through an increase in growth hormone production, and by an increase in blood flow to the area in need. Get to bed by 10pm since 10pm-2am is prime time sleeping hours and avoid blue lights at least 30 minutes before bed.