Becoming physically active can be a challenge in itself. Sustaining an injury that prevents participation in an activity can be very frustrating, especially since becoming active was difficult in the first place.
Injury prevention is comprised of many factors. The following factors should all be taken into consideration to help keep you fit and healthy.
Tip #1: Listen to your body
Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. The old saying, “No pain, no gain” is incorrect. Pushing through pain or masking it with medication will only lead to further injury. Deal with injuries early on to help decrease recovery time and prevent a chronic problem from developing. An injury in one part of the body (Eg. The foot) can lead to problems further up the leg (Eg. Knee or hip) if it is not dealt with quickly.
Tip #2: Gradual progression is the name of the game
Anyone can develop and overuse injury. You don’t have to be a marathon runner or an ironman triathlete. The term “overuse” is relative to the amount of activity your body is used to. For example, if you usually jog for thirty minutes and then suddenly increase it to an hour, you can develop an overuse injury. Your body needs time to get used to jogging for a longer period of time and it can’t do that if you suddenly double the duration of your activity. Be more gradual in your exercise progressions.
During a week of physical activity, spread out your high intensity workouts. Try not to do interval workouts two days in a row. Follow an interval workout with a longer, less intense workout the next day. You will be working your muscles in different ways and help prevent injury from occurring.
Tip #3: Cross training is good for your body
Cross training is partaking in different activities versus doing the same activity all the time. It is a great way to prevent injuries as you can alternate between impact, non-impact and non-weight bearing activities. For example, instead of jogging five times per week, substitute a session on the exercise bike or swimming. It will help eliminate some of the impact on your joints and allow you to use different muscles or use the same muscles in a different way.
Cross training also adds variety to an exercise regime and people are more likely to stick to an exercise program that isn’t boring.
Tip #4: Equipment maintenance and sizing is important
Running in a worn out or incorrect pair of shoes can lead to injury. Cycling with a damaged helmet or downhill skiing with bindings set incorrectly are safety issues that can lead to severe injury.
Proper sizing is just as important as equipment maintenance. Cycling on a bicycle that is too small or the seat is too low, can cause knee problems. Footwear that is too big often leads to blisters and lack of proper foot support. Cross-country ski poles that are too long can cause shoulder injuries.
Equipment can also include any braces being used to prevent re-inquiry of a joint. Make sure it fits properly and the material hasn’t worn out.
Tip #5: Proper technique is a vital part of any activity.
If you are embarking on a new activity, a few lessons will definitely help. Playing tennis incorrectly can lead to shoulder, elbow and back problems. Even maintaining proper posture during walking or running can help prevent neck pain. Knowing what you are supposed to concentrate on, will help you become better at your activity and increase your efficiency.
Tip #6: Prepare for your adventures
Adventure holidays are becoming more and more popular these days. Sustaining an injury during one of these holidays can cut it short or make it much less enjoyable. To avoid injury, prepare for your trip. Set up a training schedule months in advance of your trip that will prepare you for that particular activity. For instance, if you are going to be hiking in the mountains for days, start your training by walking with the pack you are going to use and gradually increase the distance and weight of the pack. Add hills to your walks. Get used to the hiking boots you are going to wear. A little preparation can make your adventure trip a fantastic one!
Tip #7: Warm up/Cool down
Warm up is any activity that warms your muscles prior to your work out. It can be a fast walk, slow jog, exercise bike etc. until you are breaking into a light sweat. Ideally your warm up activity will involve the muscles you are going to use during your work out. Warm up increases blood flow and oxygen to muscles and increases the ability of the muscles and connective tissue to stretch and prevent injury.
Stretching helps increase the flexibility of muscles so that they won’t tear during an activity. Ideally, stretching should be done after the warm up and cool down periods. Choose stretches that will involve the muscles that are going to be used during your activity. Hear are some general guidelines to follow:
Do not bounce during stretching
Hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds
Do not stretch into pain as you could be damaging the muscle
Stretch until you feel a comfortable tension in the muscle, which should have lessened by the end of the stretch.
Cool down is done after your activity. It is basically a repeat of the warm up but the purpose is to remove the waste products from your muscles and prevent muscle soreness and stiffness.
Strength training is also an important part of injury prevention, especially if you have had an injury in the past. Strong muscles help decrease the strain on the supporting structures of a joint.