5 Ways To Prevent Injury
Injury from sport, exercise, accident or even a sedentary lifestyle can be a real problem. It is often frustrating, not only affecting your daily routines, but also hindering your personal health or fitness progress. Many people consider sports injuries to be the problems that plague high profile athletes; footballers with fractured meta tarsals such as Wayne Rooney, and Paula Radcliffe's hip fracture that scuppered her plans for Beijing. Being at the pinnacle of your sporting career is a tightrope walk between training for sports performance and over-training into injury.
Who is at risk of injury?
Injuries are actually common in athletes of all abilities and the population in general. One group of people I want to focus on now who are at risk of injury through sport are newbies. A sedentary adult who has not exercised in years and wants to get fit all of a sudden for a new years resolution, or someone who is active and decides to change their sport to try something new like a swimmer taking up running for the first time. The excitement an motivation of starting a new challenge can lead to over-zealous exercise and sadly often ends up in injury and time off training. Some may struggle to build the motivation to try again and will never reach their goal of say losing 10lbs for health, or running their first 5k run for charity.
Why are those new to sport at risk?
When we exercise we apply stress to the body breaking it down a little bit. On completion we have a shower, food and if we're lucky a massage. During this post-exercise time our bodies recover - build back up and adapt to the stress that was imposed so we get stronger. This is called the SAID principle - specific adaptation to imposed demand - and is one of the most important considerations to think about when exercising.
With the enthusiasm of starting a new sport we often jump in too quickly, not allowing our body to recover and adapt to the training load. Going from never running to running five times in a week you may feel great as fitness levels are quick to adapt. Your heart, lungs and muscles do adapt quite quickly and by the end of a week or two you feel invincible. You up your mileage and as your cardiovascular fitness improves what once felt like an awful experience, tight chested, stitch, and self conscious now feels good, exhilarating and even addictive - you need more. Unfortunately what we feel does not tell us everything that is happening inside our bodies, and while our muscles adapt fairly swiftly to training, it takes longer for ligaments and tendons to become stronger as they have a poor blood supply. Annoyingly this it is often these connective tissues that become inflamed or damaged when newcomers to sport get injured, and for the same reasons they don't adapt as fast as muscles to training load means that they take ages to heal.
Five injury preventing tips for newcomers - no matter what sport you have taken up!
1. The 10% rule. Do not up volume or intensity too quickly and as a rule not more than 10% increase in one variable per week. So say you can jog 5km in week one, only add 0.5km to your distance. Or say you can run a 10min mile now, aim to complete it no faster than 9 min mile by next week in your mile rep sessions.
2. Cross train. Some runners or cyclists only do their chosen sport, day in day out. The same ride, the same interval run, the same days. It is a good idea to do exercise in different planes of motion to stimulate the body to become more efficient in your chosen sport (SAID) and also for mental stimulation. General adaptive syndrome (GAS) can result from the same repetitive exercise. Feelings of monotony, reduced performance and sports injury can result. Do a weights session, shuttle runs, change direction, karate! Mix it up!
3. Stretch! After a warm up do some dynamic (movements) stretches that mimic the sports you want to undertake. These may include body-weight squats, twists, lunges. Post workout stretch tight muscles for 30sec static stretch (hold the position). See a personal trainer for an assessment of your posture so you know what to work on. When winter approaches wear lycra to keep joints warm.
4. I recommend not running on consecutive days, and personally I rarely run more than 3x per week. I see so many people that get injured through running every day. I say train 3-6 times per week, but as mentioned above mix it up. Experienced runners may need more regular runs, but go for quality over quantity.
5. To compliment your training ensure your lifestyle allows your body to recover. If you are training hard, or for the first time you need to allow your body to sleep 8 hours a night, provide water and a good diet with adequate protein, essential fats and quality carbohydrates from vegetables, beans and pulses. Hydration affects injuries - there is a link between hydration and injury rates. Get a regular maintenance massage.
Happy training and remember to enjoy your exercise.