Since we have been allowed unlimited exercise I have heard complaints of old injuries returning and new niggles appearing. Let’s take a look at how we can enjoy getting the most of out our exercise at the same time as staying injury free.
Start Slow….Build Gradually – If you are new to an activity or returning from injury really focus on not doing too much too soon. For runners, the Couch to 5k app is the perfect steady build-up using run walk intervals. For other activities slowly build the duration (no more than 10% more is a good rule) while keeping the intensity lower and speed slower. In time you can increase your speed. These strategies will allow your tissues, the tendons in particular, the time they need to adapt to the increased load you are putting them under.
Recovery Time – Possibly the most important but often the most neglected element of exercising! And something which is especially difficult for those of us who have so much extra time on their hands currently! Rest allows your body the time, energy, and resources it needs to repair the microscopic damage caused to our muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones every time we exercise. Your body constantly repairs itself, but these efforts can be hampered by giving it a whole load of other work to do! Examples might be processing excessive alcohol, overloading it with chemical rich junk food, being in a stressed state, taking stimulants, or staying awake into the small hours. Or highly relevant right now fighting off bugs! The most productive time for soft tissue healing is between 10pm and 6am, but we must be asleep to allow the body to really get to work. Taking at least one rest day each week will leave you feeling repaired and energised ready for your next workout.
Variety Not just the Spice of Life – it could be the key to injury prevention too! Mixing up your activities really will help to avoid overloading your body. I am certainly feeling less sore now I am mixing Stand up Paddleboarding (SUP) in with all the running! Whatever activity you are most into try exchanging one session with a different activity. This will reduce the load on your body by allowing it to move in a different way. Whether it is walking, running, cycling, rowing, kayaking, swimming, mixing it up can only be a good thing.
Strength & Conditioning – This links in with adding variety. Strength work really will help to prevent injuries especially when we are doing a lot of one activity. If you are a runner you will probably be aware of the importance of glute strength and how the lack of it can result in other areas working too hard to compensate. Well, these altered patterns can happen in any exercise, as the body will always find a way of doing what you demand even if this might over stress the wrong muscles! A programme of general strengthening will help to keep each muscle group strong and prevent injuries. While there are some specific exercises which will support those doing certain exercise types, the core and glutes are always worth working on. You will find a vast array of online resources as well as many brilliant personal trainers out there to help you. If you want to get specific, I can help you find the right exercise to support your body – just get in touch.
Stretch – A well-researched topic much of which concludes that the response to different stretching methods varies from person to person. The key is to find what works for you and your body. Yoga is a popular choice and ranges from holding postures for a long time in Yin to quicker stronger movements in Ashtanga, and everything in between. Try the different types to see what you get most benefit from. Range of movement exercises can be a good choice for pre work out and static holding afterwards. Foam rolling divides the pack, but if it works for you then it can be a valuable tool to helping you feel less tight. My takeaway message here is to find what suits you, but overall to keep moving! Movement is good and will help you recover and feel mobile.
Hydration – This topic pops up in almost every post! It must be important! Our bodies are made up of 70% water and our brains 75%. Becoming just slightly dehydrated will cause a deterioration in cognitive function, increase in tension, fatigue and anxiety, reduction in visual memory and slower motor response times. These factors could all put you at increased risk of injuring yourself. With the current sunny weather keep drinking water throughout the day. The top tip for measuring hydration is to monitor the colour of your urine! Pale straw is what you are aiming for!
Listen to Your Body – (and no one else’s)! This one is powerful. If you are feeling tired there is a reason. If you are thirsty, hungry, hyperactive, sleepy, grumpy, energetic, feeling low, whatever…. try to listen and act accordingly. What does your body need? A relaxing bath with Epsom salts, a glass of electrolyte rehydration, a healthy meal made up of protein, vegetables and slow release carbohydrates, a good stretch out, a sprint session or HIIT class, a gentle walk in the sunshine or an early night. Tapping into what your body is telling you it needs will help to keep your body and mind happy, healthy and injury free.
If you have questions Helen is available to help you, so please do get in touch.