I can’t tell you how often people approach me at the gym to tell me that they’ve been injured working out and ask me “What should I do now?” Somehow they injured themselves during an activity and of course, the thought is, if I was injured doing something, that’s what must have caused the injury.
However, I beg to differ.
I usually follow their question with other questions: Did you foam roll first? Did you stretch? Did you do any mobility work PRIOR to the activity? And 9 times out of 10, the answer is… NO. You see most of the time it isn’t the activity that caused the injury: it’s not being PREPARED for the activity that usually causes the injury.
I want to review with you the top six strategies you can use to avoid getting injured when you workout.
1. Coffe and a Roll Every Day for Life
When I coach clients who want to make life changes, I always look to their daily routines and habits and see if it’s possible to make small changes, which, over time, will lead to big changes. One of the most effective ways for preventing injury is get yourself a foam roller and every morning, after you’ve made a nice hot cup of coffee, get on that roller for 5 to 10 minutes and roll out the prior day’s tightness and stress. This adds up over time and after a few weeks you’ll find you don’t make as much noise when you are getting down to or up from the ground. You know what I mean…
2. Change It Up
It’s been known for quite some time now that repetitive motion can cause overuse injuries. Running is such activity and so is cycling (although cycling involves much less pounding and the option of changing body positions). The same goes for sitting, working on the computer, etc. So if health and fitness is your goal, why would you repeat the same activities every day? My suggestion is if you cycle on Monday, do strength training on Tuesday, and maybe yoga or Pilates on Wednesday. Everyone now knows cross training is one the best ways to get results and even more importantly, stay injury free.
3. Prepare Your Body Before You Work Out
Do you really think jumping into any workout is a good idea after you spent the last 15 minutes sitting in your car? All of our workouts do have “warm ups” in them, but they are not specific to each individual’s need. Maybe your hips are tight, or your calves… maybe it’s a shoulder thing (or all three)? Taking 10 minutes to prepare your body for your workout goes a long, long way to staying injury free. Especially if you know what your body needs. When you get into the club, get off your phone and take a few more minutes to prepare your body for what you’re going to do!
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4. Reset Your Body After Your Workout
So, now you’ve done a bit of rolling at home, you arrived early to the club and put a few more minutes into stretching exercises prior to class, you pushed yourself hard and now you run out and jump into your car. NOT GOOD. The blood from the large muscle groups has not had a chance to re-circulate, those warm muscles are lengthened out from exercising and feeling the stress and want to tighten up and shorten: this is the best time to stretch, open up the body, calm the muscle and recirculate the blood back to the rest of the body. If you have to leave early, take a few minutes to cool down and stretch. Better to leave five minutes earlier and get that stretch in than jump right back into the car.
5. Get Off Your Ass as Much as Possible the Rest of the Day
I know… I should say it in a nicer way… however, it’s SO important and so many still over look this simple habit, I want to emphasize once again its importance. You see after you’ve exercised, the second most important activity for staying injury free and healthy is to move. As much as you can and as often as possible. I am not talking about stressful movement, I’m talking about standing, walking, bending, lifting, and walking up some stairs… the usual stuff. Moving more not only helps you burn more calories, it’s good for your brain, your circulation and even your mood. Get off your butt everyday and move as much as you can. It’s life changing.
6. Active Recovery and Rest
What do you mean recover and rest, you just said, “Get off my butt!”? Yeah, I know, but after you’ve been active all day, or all week, it’s time to recover. Take a couple of days off, don’t cycle, don’t run, don’t lift a weight and just rest your body. For some of us (that means me too) this may be the most challenging thing to do. I like the term active rest and here’s why: because it’s still being active, but since you are not pushing yourself, you are still able to recover. You’re allowing your body to adapt to the changes you want when you push yourself, but the only way to do that is to allow yourself to recover. More is NOT better when it comes to exercising.
So sleep, take a nap, meditate, talk a walk in nature, chill out… and allow your body to heal, recover and adapt. You’ll see more changes and better results when you do this on a consistent basis. Prep your body, cool it down after pushing it and then change things up… and continue to create the lifetime habits that keep you injury free so you are able to move more and feel better… because at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?
Phil Dozois, Owner, Breakthru Fitness
Featured photo credit: Adobe Stock via stock.adobe.com