There is nothing worse than training hard, getting closer and closer to your health and fitness goals, only to have the setback of an injury. Injuries can come in all different forms and each one usually has the same outcome and recovery plan – stop all training and exercise. Whether you are new to exercise or an aspiring athlete, there are a few practices you can put in place to help avoid injury while getting fit. Read on to discover our top tips.
A warm up is designed to get blood flowing around the body, to oxygenate the muscles, to increase synovial fluid around the joints and to mentally prepare your body for the workout it’s about to do, so it’s never a good idea to start your workout without it. Hop on one of the cardio machines at the gym, complete some body weight exercises using the same muscle groups that you’re about to train or add some dynamic stretches to the start of each training session and it can help you to avoid injury.
A good way to avoid injury is to know and understand your body. If you know you have a weakness in a certain area of your body, be sensible when training that area. Kenneth Plancher, associate clinical professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, says “It isn’t just about avoiding a certain fitness activity until you’re in better shape, it’s about knowing what your weak areas are and then avoiding the types of activities that will push too hard on that weakened area.”
As soon as technique is jeopardised, injury is inevitable ! A simple explanation for this is, as soon as the wrong muscle groups or the wrong joints are used to an exercise, they are at risk of not being able to cope with the movement or load and an injury will occur. Frank Yemi, from Livestrong.com says “performing exercise with an improper form can lead to short term back pain and long term nerve damage. Your spine can be more vulnerable when lifting heavy weights which can also lead to lumbar sprains.” If you’re unsure on how to complete an exercise correctly, ask a Fitness Professional to show you correct technique before you try it.
Include heavy lifting in your strength training regime, but build up the weight slowly – don’t just jump in at a heavy weight on a new exercise or increase your weights dramatically on an exercise you have only just mastered at body weight. If you do, your muscles or joints may not be prepared, strong enough or able to take the load, which will lead to injury. Lifting heavy weights can ensure some amazing results but not at the detriment to your body!
Overtraining can cause both mental and physical fatigue. According to the American Council on Exercise, overtraining can cause moodiness, sleeplessness, fatigue and chronic muscle pain. It also increases your likelihood of contracting infections as overtraining affects your immune system’s performance. Rest and recovery are a vital part of an exercise regime, helping the body to process the workout it has just completed, get stronger and adapt to cardio demands. Try to include at least two days of rest per week in your training plan, more if you are training at a high intensity.
6. Cool down and stretch
Stretching can help to reduce muscle soreness the day after a tough workout, as well as aiding to lengthen your muscles back to their natural position. Stretching is also a key factor to maintaining and improving your flexibility, which will help to decrease the risk of injury from exercise. Try to put 5-10 minutes aside before you rush off after your training session to cool down and stretch.
This might sound obvious, but if something hurts (that’s not supposed to hurt!) when you’re exercising, stop what you’re doing. And if pain seem abnormal or isn’t improving, seek the advice of a professional. Gerald Varlotta, Director of Sports Rehabilitation Medicine at New York’s NYU Medical Centre explains why injuries can happen, “sometimes it’s a matter of doing the right activity too much or too often. Sometimes it’s a matter of doing the right activity wrong and sometimes it’s a matter of choosing the wrong activity for your particular body type or physical condition.”