30 Years of Health & Fitness – Part 4

Welcome to part 4 of the Helpful Concepts Series: Avoiding Injuries

This series is an opportunity for me to share some nuggets of information you can use, based on observations over my 30 years in the health and fitness field. I select ideas that I feel are often left out when these topics are discussed. They are organized by theme. You can read the first episode, on Healthy Habits. Part 2 is about Embracing Movement and Exercise. Part 3 was about the Best-Kept Secret of Life-Long Active People. Today’s post includes 13 Helpful Concepts on Avoiding Injuries.

A common reason for dropping out of exercise is getting injured. Discussing specific injuries can get technical and highly individual. Fortunately there are some behaviors that apply to most people and that can reduce your risk of injury.

  1. Increasing exercise intensity too quickly is one of the main reasons injuries happen. A general rule of thumb is to increase intensity no more than 10% per week, and not every single week.
    1. If you have a deadline for your training, such as a race, give yourself more time than you think you need. In my opinion, most race programs for beginners are too aggressive in their schedule. I see injuries happen about 3 months into the training.
    2. You can’t make up for lost time. If you have been away from your fitness program, you can get started again but you can’t “hurry” it. Building fitness will take the time it takes. Trying extra hard increases your risk of injury.
    3. If you attend a group fitness or “boot camp” class, be your own boss regarding the proper intensity for you in spite of cues to work as hard as you possibly can.
    4. Before you are ready for the sport or group class of your choice, you may need to build a foundation of strength and flexibility in ways that are specific to your body’s needs.
  2. Get a support team. Develop a relationship with a massage therapist, trainer, osteopath, chiropractor, or acupuncturist. They can help you with information as well as training and recovery techniques so you can recover from an injury or avoid one altogether.
  3. Develop good form and proper alignment in your activities. This is critical for promoting movement efficiency and reducing stress points that are prone to injury.
  4. Warm up. Start your exercise routine with gentle movements that mimic what you will do in the main part of your workout. Once you begin your main activity, do it at a lower intensity before ramping up power and speed. Stretching is not usually indicated as part of a warm up.
  5. Stretch and loosen. Neutralize the tension patterns of the exercise by stretching and loosening after the activity.
  6. Don’t stretch too hard. Stretching should feel pleasant and relaxing. You should be able to breathe smoothly while performing any stretch. Stretching too hard can cause an injury. I don’t recommend allowing an instructor to push you into a stretch, especially in a group setting such as a Yoga class. This is a common cause of injury by overstretching.
  7. If you notice discomfort developing in response to your exercise, don’t push through the pain. In the next workout, go back to the previous amount of exercise that caused no discomfort and build back up from there. If any amount still causes discomfort, avoid that particular movement for a few days and try again at a lower intensity. Consult your support team, preferably while the problem is still minor.
  8. Varied movement reduces the risk of injury by varying the stress on one particular body part or system. Include multiple types of activities in your routine. This is known as cross training.
  9. Support your body’s recovery by eating healthy food, hydrating properly, and getting enough sleep.
  10. Get regular massage to enhance recovery. This is a wonderful performance and wellness enhancing practice, even if you are not injured.
  11. Allow adequate time for recovery. When you engage in activities that are harder than you are used to, your body needs time to recover and adapt. One or two hard workouts per week interspersed with activities that are within your usual intensity level might be a good basic formula, but there is no hard and fast rule. Pay attention to how you feel. Taking a day off each week is a good idea. Sometimes you need a recovery week when you do only moderate intensity activities. If you notice a drop off in performance when you would expect to be getting stronger, take it easy and see if you get renewed energy after a few days. This need for recovery applies to when you are pushing yourself to a new level. You do not need time off from activities of daily living and gentle movement.
  12. If you do get injured, don’t give up on being active. Think about what movements are still available to you while you heal. For example, if a sore knee makes your usual walk or run difficult, see if you can lift weights for your upper body, do floor exercises, or swim instead.
  13. Avoid inactivity. While there is a risk of injury associated with exercise, there is even more risk associated with being inactive. I often see chronic pain resulting from insufficient activity level. The body needs a certain amount of myofascial tone (muscle + connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments) to maintain joint space, support posture, and allow strain-free daily movements. Being active is associated with improved functioning in every area of physical and even mental function. 

I can help you customize these concepts. Aston Kinetics excels at assisting individuals in the following areas:

  • Finding optimal alignment
  • Creating muscle balance through a customized strength and flexibility program
  • Releasing holding patterns in the fascia through advanced massage techniques
  • Discovering hidden causes of strain on particular joints, tendons or muscles
  • Speeding up the recovery process after an injury with appropriate exercises and massage