More is not better-better is better.
Injuries can often be very demoralizing and can sometimes see people at the peak of their professional careers or in the midst personal fitness goals toss in the towel and give it all away. It can have a massive impact psychologically on your confidence and self esteem. And this is often because of some really silly mistakes.
When you’re young and fit you can often feel invincible and the body’s ability to rebuild and rejuvenate can be amazing even when poor exercise principles are being engaged. Some people can be amazingly resilient. But beware! As the body ages and tissue become less elastic and pliable, gradually or suddenly, this can take an about turn for the worse. Tissue takes time to breakdown. So whilst you make have sprained or strained a muscle that day in the gym, chances are you have been doing that damage for sometime before it finally gave way.
Most people go to the gym or exercise to better themselves in some way, and it is sometimes surprising that the one thing that they do in order to improve their health can often do the complete opposite if it’s not done intelligently.
So here are my Top Ten Tips for avoiding injury.
1. Get screened or assessed by a professional before you start
Having a trainer or health professional such as a physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor have a look at your posture can highlight issues with your body that can come back to bite you later down the track. By addressing postural deviations, limitations and restrictions or correcting core function prior to large loads or intensity, you can reduce of the chance of injury later down the track. Better still movement screens such as the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) act as a reliable screening system created to rank movement patterns that are fundamental to normal function. By screening these patterns, movement limitations and asymmetries are readily identified and measured. Basic movement pattern limitation and asymmetry are thought to reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and recent data suggest these factors may be related to injury in sport. One goal of the FMS is to identify those individuals with movement pattern limitations, so individualized correct exercise can be prescribed to normalize movement prior to an increase in physical training or competitive sports season. The FMS is a screen designed for and applied to those individuals without an existing injury or painful complaint.
2. Warm up properly and include Flexibility and/or range of motion (ROM) exercises
There really are no excuses for this one. No matter what your time constraints are, spend 5-10mins warming up. Warming up increases your core body temperature, heart rate and blood flow, oxygen uptake, and range of motion required for the upcoming activities. By doing this you will obtain the lubrication, suppleness, pliability and elasticity of muscle, joints, ligaments and tendons needed for vigorous exercise. It will also improve your performance and by dialing you in mentally and your body primed for the onslaught to come. Try a dynamic ROM warm up and a few light sets.
Spend at least 10-15mins before, during or after exercise. Suppleness is one of the most important elements in injury prevention and rehabilitation. As your strength increases often your range of motion and flexibility decreases so you actually need to stretch more. And hey at least you’re not going to walk out of the gym looking like a stiff plank, or a gorilla. There is nothing cool about not being able to put your jacket on, touch your nose or do up your shoe laces because you move like a brick.
3. Balance your exercises and body parts
Too many people only train for aesthetics. This creates muscle imbalances and usually means training the upper and front of the body only! This can have a negative impact on posture and create problems such as shoulder impingements and back pain.
Any good PT will have you doing exercises for the posterior chain (back of the body) and create a balanced program for you. Real strength comes from the ground up, and if your objective is to get functionally strong then only doing bicep curls isn’t going to do it.
Overtraining the same exercises and therefore body parts is a recipe for disaster. See a coach or a trainer to write a program that is right for you. Yes your goals, body type, posture, core control, flexibility, current health and fitness levels, limitations, restrictions and injuries. Picking up the latest Muscle and Fitness or Women’s health isn’t good enough. Programs are not a one size fits all kind of thing. So get what is right for you and your body,
4. Use correct form
One of the major factors is poor technique- Muscle sprain and strains, shoulder impingements come as a result of poor form. And for men it is usually due to their ego. Even if it means cutting down in weight to achieve proper body positioning or stability to begin with, do it. Short term insecurity is not worth long term health problems. The need to impress peers, team mates or the opposite sex by lifting excessive weights that are far too heavy encourages the use of momentum, cheat reps, and terrible body positioning. If you aren’t sure of the technique or what program is right for you-get a coach. The world’s No 1 top athletes and teams all have personal trainers and coaches, so why don’t you?
5. Adequate rest
Burning out your central nervous system from hard strength training and training when you are exhausted or ill means your focus is already off and your body is fatigued. This is definitely when injuries are most likely to occur. If you want to get stronger or bigger then relative rest for recovery is just as important as the workout itself! Quality not quantity is the key. Your rest and recovery is as important if not more important than the workout itself.
6. Know your limits
If you are trying to bench press 300 pounds when your personal best is only 200, then there is a pretty good chance that you are in for a pectoral blow out. If you haven’t run for a long time and then decide to do sprints at 100% on uneven terrain, then there is also a pretty good chance a knee blow-out is one the way. Try progressing at a reasonable pace-and when your body is ready to do so. Training hard doesn’t mean training dumb.
7. Try some variety
If you are in a training rut or hit a plateau in your gains then vary your routine. This will stop overtraining, repetitive strain injuries and boredom. You and your body will thank you for it as it smashes through another plateau and your training goes to the next level. Your body adapts to programs within 6-8 weeks, some trainers argue you should change your program around that time to challenge your body in different ways. Try cross training.
8. Take into consideration your footwear. Buy the right ones for you and what you do.
Wearing over engineered footwear at $250 a pop isn’t necessarily the go. Spending more money doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for your activity nor your feet and body. Expensive footwear that isn’t right for you can take away range of motion (ROM) and proprioception (your body’s awareness, stability and balance) in the joints. Strength training is often best done in simple cheap footwear or none at all.
Shoes especially in heel cushioning for regular runners may have only a life span of about 3 months. Replace any shoes that you train regularly in, week to week, often, to avoid knee pain, plantar fasciitis, lower back pain and shin splints. Most joggers of any sort over time will adapt to your feet by leaving an imprint and any asymmetries or compensation patterns and to whatever imbalances you may have in the body, and compound them. By changing shoes regularly you allow the body to correct itself.
9. Have a maintenance program
If you train regularly (and hard) some times having a rest week or two will reignite the passion for training again and give the body a rest. See an Osteopath or Chiropractor every month to six week to ensure alignment, biomechanics, joints and spine are actually where they are meant to be so that forces and loads are evenly distributed over joint surfaces and muscles tendons and ligaments and everything is where it should be. Massages may also assist and will increase blood and nutrient flow, aid recovery and break down muscle tension, aid relaxation and prevent injury.
Joint health programs are of great benefit to people of all ages. Swimming is a great exercise to aid recovery and range of motion. Supplement with Fish oil to reduce inflammation and improve heart health. Try glucosamine for your joints to prevent the further degeneration of the joint and cartilage. Take them in the correct dosage.
10. Eat well and stay hydrated
Sounds simple but most people do not. If I had a dollar for every time I had a skinny client wanting to get big and strong tell me or an obese client who wanted to torch fat and lose body weight tell me ” my diet is really good….honestly”. Really? If that was the case then we wouldn’t be having the conversation to begin with. Nutrition from my perspective is 70% of people achieving their training goals. Eating diets high in bad fats, refined sugars, bleached flours and preservatives, additives and colours are not the go. Remember the more alive your food is the more alive you will be. Taking supplements and multivitamins etc still come secondary to a kick ass good balanced diet. And drink plenty of water. Dehydration can often be the cause of fatigue, tiredness, irritability and moodiness and therefore injuries. Let’s face it most of your body is water. By the time you are thirsty or dry mouthed you are already dehydrated.