14 May The top 5 ways to stay injury free
The reality is when we get injured, we don’t like taking time off from our training. We know we should, and we know that continuing to train with that dodgy shoulder or bad knee isn’t going to be good in the long term.
The good news is that when we better understand the contributing factors to injury, we are more likely to stay injury-free and promote longevity.
So what are the main causes of injury and how can we overcome them and continue to train safely?
1. Problem – Muscle Tightness
If you have tight calves you are in good company as this is very common. When we exercise, we are constantly demanding contractions from our muscles. This continuous rate of contraction may result in a shortening of the muscle, which in turn can lead to a limited range of motion and may create a muscle imbalance – which can increase our propensity for injury. A limited range of movement at the ankle may inhibit correct form in such common exercises such as jumping and squatting.
Ensuring you are regularly stretching your soleus and calf muscles will help with correcting tightness in these muscles. A similar approach to other potential problem areas can also be of value. Stretches for the hip-flexors can also assist to release the psoas (the deepest muscles in your core) – which in turn can help with certain types of lower back pain. Foam rolling can also assist with helping the muscle to relax.
2. Problem – Muscle Weakness
Muscle weakness occurs when our full effort doesn’t produce a normal muscle contraction or movement. Of course, we can experience this at the conclusion of a gruelling workout when we have simply exhausted ourselves! However, persistent muscle weakness may indicate an underlying muscle imbalance. Stronger muscles can begin to dominate weaker ones, resulting in uneven forces acting on our joints. These imbalances can place excessive strain on joints as we have less control during impact activities or in the way we stabilise our joints when lifting.
Solution – Manual muscle testing and strengthening or consult your GP
If you believe this to be related to a muscle imbalance, an assessment from a qualified sports practitioner can determine the cause of your muscle weakness and recommend appropriate treatment. In some cases, physical therapy may be helpful.
Manual muscle testing of the affected area may also highlight an asymmetric weakness (one side is weaker than the other). Identifying this makes it possible to realign/balance the body through isolated strengthening on the weaker side.
3. Problem – Overtraining and overuse
It is all too easy to overtrain and not take enough rest between sessions. This may result in excessive fatigue, troubled sleep, inability to concentrate and to perform exercises with correct technique. A physiological sign of overtraining is also an increased resting heart rate.
Overuse injuries are caused by repeated actions that apply pressure to a certain group of muscles, joints or areas of soft tissue. Symptoms include a gradual pain that worsens over time, sometimes accompanied by swelling and/or bruising.
Solution: Rest and mix things up
The best way to avoid overtraining and overuse is to ensure adequate rest between sessions – so make sure you are taking a few days off during the week.
By varying our training we can avoid a lot of these injuries, plus ensure we’re not getting too much repetitive loading through your training.
4. Problem – Lower back pain
Lower back pain is one of the most common issues people have. Around 1 in 6 Australians have back pain each year. It is estimated that 70–90% of people will suffer from lower back pain in some form at some point in their lives.
Solution – Focus on your core
Though you always should find out what the cause is with your doctor, one of the most common issues with lower back pain is poor posture. Weak abdominal muscles end up diverting the extra stress around the back, which leaves the muscles overworked, sore and painful.
One of the best ways to solve this problem is to focus on exercises that strengthen your core. Pretty much everyone living with chronic back pain can benefit from strengthening these muscles – think Pilates or Yoga. So focus on exercises which target all areas of your core.
5. If you are seriously injured – STOP!
As tempting as it can be to “just push through the pain” – please don’t. You want to be able to keep training for many years to come and one of the surest ways to jeopardise your training is to exercise when your body is telling you to rest.
Trust me it is better to take a bit of time off and recover quickly as opposed to keep training and really hurt yourself and have to take even more time off. So always listen to your body, it will tell you what to do.