Anyone who exercises regularly risks injury. Some of us seem more prone to these disasters than others. Is it just bad luck or poor genetics? Sometimes, yes – you can blame your body or your parents. Most of the time, however, you have unknowingly (or knowingly) set yourself up for disaster.
Are you guilty of one of these common training offenses? If so, you may soon be sidelined.
- Doing Too Much Too Soon: You set a New Year’s resolution. You bet your buddy you could lose 20 lbs. in 2 weeks. You signed up for a race months ago and now it is 2 weeks away. You used to work out two hours a day, took a year off, and then tried to pick up right where you left off. Any of these scenarios can set you up for injury. While you may have once run a 6-minute mile or benched 200 lbs., that doesn’t mean you can do it after a hefty layover. Training programs for races take time for a reason. A principle in training called progression is essential in preventing injury. Basically, progression means you need to build up your fitness level over a period of time. Doing too much too soon – whether it is cycling, running, lifting or even yoga – can put too much stress on your body and cause it to break down.
- Stubbornness: Oh you know who you are (it’s okay, I’m with you). Your knee has been pinching for a few days, but you are sure you can run through it. The sole of your foot is achy every morning, but it doesn’t hurt THAT much when you lunge. Your shoulder barks every time you do a lateral raise, but you grit your teeth through that last set anyway. Purposefully ignoring impending injuries is not going to make the pain go away. In many cases, it actually makes the pain worse. Often, it is better to rest a day or two (or longer) when you have a feeling something isn’t right than push through pain and create an injury that takes weeks or months to heal.
- Not Tuning In: Stubbornness means you know something is wrong. If you aren’t tuned in to your body in the first place, you may not even realize that it is telling you injury is imminent and rest is essential. Regularly practicing mind-body techniques such as meditation, yoga and/or Pilates can help you be more aware of feelings of fatigue, stiffness, inflexibility, imbalance and weakness. Awareness is the first step towards prevention!
- The Wrong Footwear: I can’t tell you how many times a client complains to me about an ache or a pain and I look down at their feet and see old, worn shoes circa 1992. (okay, maybe 2009, but still) Your shoes should be fresh. Running shoes last 300-500 miles and cross trainers from 4-6 months, depending on the frequency and intensity of your training. Also remember that shoes have a shelf life. The supporting materials break down as they sit on the shelf (or in your closet) unused, so even if you bought a new pair in 2007 and wore them only once – you are due for another purchase. Shoes are also created for specific purposes. Running shoes may not be the best choice for an athletic conditioning class as they are built for forward movement – not lots of lateral shuffling or quick changes. Basketball shoes are not a good choice for long runs. Match your shoes to your intended workout to stay injury free.
- Lack of Cross Training: You love to run, and that’s all you do. You only cycle. You lift weights, but never train in flexibility. Overtime, those muscles you use over and over again become strong while the ones you neglect become weak. You ingrain imbalances that can make prone to injury. If your muscles are imbalanced, every time you perform movement, your strong muscles have to work harder to compensate for the weak ones. Eventually, even the strong ones give out. Cross training is any movement that takes you out of your comfort zone – it might be swimming for a runner, yoga for a weight lifter or athletic training for a dancer. Try to add cross-training activity at least once a week.
Once you are injured, your only choices are rest or medical intervention. You may also be forced into cross training (the pool is a commonly populated by the injured masses). Taking steps to prevent injury before it consumes you can save you a lot of pain – both mental and physical.