Feel your best with these simple yet highly effective injury prevention tips!
When we’ve finally got into the swing of a great exercise routine and we’re feeling motivated and inspired - the last thing we need is an injury.
Whether it’s something serious like a broken bone or just a mild muscle strain, an injury can be a disheartening interruption to your fitness journey.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to drastically reduce the risk of exercise-related injury, and keep ourselves safely on track towards our fitness goals.
Here are the 10 keys to injury prevention.
1. Warm up
Have you ever had to suddenly sprint to catch a bus you didn’t realise you were late for, only to spend the rest of the day (or week) limping around on an injured ankle?
This is a classic example of what can happen if we don’t warm up! The point of warming up is to raise the temperature of the muscle groups you’re going to be working because cold muscles are stiff and more likely to be injured if they’re suddenly thrown into intense exercise.
Warming up also loosens our joints and brings our awareness into our bodies. Although many of us skip the warm up to save time, the whole body can be warmed up in as little as 5 minutes - and since it’s both the easiest and most important key to injury prevention, it’s well worth it.
Stretching helps relax and elongate our muscles, making them more pliable and resistant to injury. Not only does stretching between sets promote circulation and muscle repair, but it’s also a great way to loosen up and avoid a painful muscle strain.
A good stretching session at the end of your workout is the best way to reduce any next-day muscle soreness, ensuring a shorter recovery period with much less hobbling and groaning.
Concentration is a must for safe and effective workouts. Although we all want to reach our fitness goals as quickly as possible, starting out with top speed and intensity is not the answer.
Focusing on good technique and gradually increasing the intensity of our workouts is the most efficient way to get to where we want to be. Concentrating on form drastically reduces the chance of a pulled muscle or tendon, while allowing us to really hone-in on the muscle groups being trained.
4. Know your limits
How heavy is too heavy? If you can’t make controlled movements and have to jerk to lift a weight - it’s too much. You won’t be gaining anything from lifting more than you can handle, and you’ll be putting yourself at risk of an injury - not to mention the risk that flying dumbbells and wayward barbells pose to other gym users! If you’re lifting heavy - make sure you have a competent, trustworthy spotter!
How fast is too fast? If you’re completely new to running and decide to jump on the treadmill to run 5km in 20 minutes - it’s probably not going to end well. Even if you do make it, the stress of an unfamiliar exercise at such high intensity is a danger to even the fittest body.
Knowing your limits isn’t about doing the most that is physically possible, but knowing what you can achieve safely while still challenging yourself.
5. Rest and Recover, but keep it Regular
Two of the most common sources of exercise-related injury are irregular training and overtraining. Doing intense workouts in between long bouts of inactivity is dangerous, but so is training too frequently with insufficient time to recover.
It’s all about finding your own ideal balance of regularity and rest. This will be different for everyone, depending on our individual goals, current fitness levels, and many other factors. A good place to start is 3-4 sessions each week, no more than 1 hour in duration.
6. Get a personal trainer
Even personal trainers get personal trainers. This is because they understand the value of having someone supporting and guiding them through their training and on the way to their goals - even though they already know a lot about exercise.
A personal trainer can even keep you safe from injury, by making sure you have correct form and are training at the right intensity. Having someone keep you motivated, safe, and on track, is a really worthwhile investment.
7. Listen to your body
You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘no pain, no gain,’ but don’t be misled - you shouldn’t experience pain during a workout. It’s important to listen to your body and be able to distinguish between the normal discomfort of a tough workout, and when something really doesn’t feel right.
By the time you’re feeling genuine pain, it’s likely an injury has already occurred. If we really listen to our bodies, they’ll tell us when one more rep is not a such a good idea, when we need to drop our pace a little, and when we need an extra day of rest.
8. Dress right for your workout
Not only is activewear super comfy and beyond stylish, it’s also a key part of an injury-free workout. By investing in good quality, sport-specific shoes that support your feet, and breathable and stretchy clothes that allow you to move freely, you’ll safely take your workouts to the next level.
You’ll look the part and avoid all kinds of dangerous wardrobe malfunctions that can occur when poorly-clad.
9. Train for your sport
Joining a sports team is a great way to stay active and meet new people, but it’s a mistake to expect that just turning up for the match is all you need to get in shape.
The fact is, playing sport puts us at a high risk of avoidable injuries if we don’t have an adequate training program in place.
A conditioning program of sport-specific exercises is necessary for ensuring your body is strong, mobile, and ready for impact. For best results, learn about the specific fitness components of your sport and train with your teammates!
10. Fuel your body
If you undereat or fill up on poor quality food, you’re at a much higher risk of getting hurt when you workout.
Your body needs the right fuel to perform at its best and avoid injury, so make sure you’re aware of your daily caloric and nutritional requirements.
You may even want to consider tracking your intake and output on an app like Chronometer or MyFitnessPal. You don’t need to do this all the time, but check in every so often to make sure you’re on track.
Eating a good balance of carbohydrates, plant-based protein and healthy fats is essential for fuelling a fitness lifestyle, both during your workout sessions and throughout your recovery time.
If you can manage to incorporate all 10 keys to injury prevention into your fitness lifestyle, your risk of injury will be very low and any setbacks will be few and far between!