Injury prevention is a hot topic for athletes at every level. Everyone wants to know:
How do I train harder, run faster, and get stronger without putting my body at increased risk for injury?
Not all injuries are preventable, but by following these seven guidelines you can certainly reduce muscle strains, tendonitis, and overuse injuries.
- Every workout should begin with a warm-up. It prepares the body for exercise by increasing heart rate and improving blood flow to skeletal muscles which can prevent injury.
- Your warm-up should consist of at least 5-10 minutes of a gentle cardiovascular exercise that helps you break a sweat.
- Finish off your warm-up with sport-specific movements that mimic what the rest of your workout will require of your body, but at a lower intensity. This prepares your body for what is to come.
- Once your muscles are warm, they become more elastic and ready to be stretched.
- Static stretches (holding each position for 10-30 secs) or dynamic stretches (moving the body through a functional range of motion) will help prepare the muscles, joints, and tendons for work by allowing them to move through a full active range of motion without restriction.
- The more prepared the body is for the workout, the less likely it is to be injured.
- Start your workout slowly. Try not to do too much, too fast to avoid excessive muscle soreness and tightness.
- Over time, slowly increase the amount and intensity of the workout. A 5% increase as the exercise becomes too easy is a safe progression.
- Ensure the use of safe, properly-fitted equipment.
- This is the most commonly forgotten portion of the workout. It helps safely bring the body, heart rate, and muscles back to their resting state.
- Perform 5-10 minutes of low-intensity cardiovascular activity, followed by stretching.
- Cooling down immediately after your workout will help decrease delayed onset muscle soreness and aid in recovery which will help prepare your body for its next workout.
Listen to Your Body
- Don’t ignore aches and pains in joints or muscles that do not improve in 24-48 hours. These could be signs that a more serious injury is developing.
- If your body is too sore or tired from a previous workout, you should consider taking a day off or cross-training to avoid injury.
Rest and Recover
- Rest is critical to avoiding injury and seeing gains in your training program. You can not get faster or stronger without allowing your body time to heal and recover.
- Rest days should occur at least 1-2 times per week.
- You can choose to use one of your rest days as an active recovery day where, for instance, you take a gentle yoga class in lieu of a complete rest day.
Follow a Healthy Diet
- The best compliment to a true injury prevention plan is a healthy diet consisting of whole foods with adequate amounts of the macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
- A poor diet that is high in processed foods and sugar can contribute to muscle weakness and decreased cardiovascular endurance.
- Hydration is equally important and should be maintained before, during, and after your workouts using water and electrolytes.
By following these simple guidelines, you can significantly decrease your risk for overuse injuries and stay focused on your workout goals!