How to Avoid a Training Injury

Frequent injuries, caused by exercise, suggest that the body is not robust enough to cope with the demands of strenuous exercise. They often strike impatient individuals who neglect to take enough rest, or to include warming up, cooling down and stretching elements in their routine. Whatever the cause, a few judicious changes to the training routine are often enough to prevent further training injury, and simple treatment steps can minimize inflammation and pain.

When dealing with training injuries, prevention is the best policy. Ensuring adequate rest between exercise sessions and eating an appropriate diet, for example, are both important in avoiding common injuries, such as infections and muscle cramp. Avoiding other common injuries may involve adapting a training routine or selecting more suitable footwear. In the event of a minor injury, self-treatment can be effective. Serious injuries require professional advice.

PREVENTION OF TRAINING INJURIES

Although minor training injuries may seem trivial, they can act as a bar to further activity and can prevent achievement in a favourite sport. The best tactic is therefore to prevent such training injuries occurring in the first place by, for example, making sure the body is in good condition; following a well-structured training programme, whether at home or at a gym or class; and paying proper attention to clothing and equipment. Injuries may also be avoided by complying with the guidelines specific to individual sports. Occasionally, recurrent injuries are due to an underlying problem, perhaps of posture or technique, that can be corrected.

Adequate rest

Just as adequate exercise is essential to health, so is adequate rest. The two golden rules are to have plenty of sleep, and to allow enough time for the body to recover between exercise sessions – expert advice to avoid a training injury!

The adaptations that take place in muscles after a workout occur during the rest period. They become stronger in this time and are then able to work harder at the next training session. Without this rest period, the muscles are not allowed to strengthen and will not be able to cope with the demands of the training programme. This is why adequate rest is essential.

Always allow a day off between muscular training sessions and two days between sessions if you are using heavy weights. If you want to do muscular training every day, you should work the upper body one day and the lower body the next.

It is also important to allow a day off between sessions involving the same type of aerobic activity. If you want to train every day, you should perform different activities on consecutive days to avoid repetitive stress on the joints and muscles. Avoid working at high intensity in every session and slow down or stop when you feel tired, even if you are in the middle of a class. If you stop in mid-session, you should cool down as usual.

Diet

The body cannot be expected to perform well on a poor diet, and as a result of this, a training injury can happen when you least expect it. For top performance, it is important to eat the best diet possible. A diet that includes plenty of bread, pasta, rice and potatoes enables the muscles to refuel with glycogen – the stored form of carbohydrates. Muscles that have low glycogen stores will fatigue quickly so the individual has less control over her body, her performance suffers and she risks injury.

Cross training

When an individual takes up an activity, her body adapts to the demands that the particular activity makes on it. Running, for example, taxes the legs and the cardiovascular system, but the benefits to the shoulders and arms are minimal. If an individual improves her performance at running, it does not follow that she will be better at another activity, such as swimming. For total fitness, therefore, it is important to practise a range of activities. This combining of activities, called cross training, maximizes the benefits of exercise and reduces the risk of overuse injuries.

Specific activities also place stress on particular parts of the body. Running places constant stress on the back, legs and feet, making them vulnerable to stress fractures. Alternating activities and taking rest days allows the body time to recover and reduces stress. Swimming makes a useful addition to any exercise programme because it puts no stress on the joints; and Yoga is beneficial because it improves flexibility. Weight training improves upper body and leg strength, which can improve performance and protect against injuries.

Gradual progress

Beginner’s enthusiasm, the desire to lose a lot of weight quickly, or the urge to compete with peers, are all reasons why an individual may try to do too much exercise too soon. Someone who has taken no exercise for a number of years and is extremely unfit and overweight will obviously take some time to get back into shape, but even experienced athletes sometimes work too hard in their efforts to improve performance. Whatever your level of fitness, a slow and gradual progression in training is safer and ultimately produces better results in terms of fitness, and can help you steer clear of the dreaded training injury.

Clothing, equipment and facilities

Many training injuries are simply the result of poor choices of clothing and equipment, or carelessness – especially lack of attention to the feet (including worn shoes, ill-fitting socks, badly tied laces and constant exercising on hard surfaces). Clothing and footwear should always be appropriate for the chosen activity. Footwear should fit properly and be securely fastened to reduce the risk of falls.

Home training equipment should be carefully maintained and inspected regularly for wear and tear. When choosing sports facilities, it is important to check that the equipment meets safety requirements and is regularly maintained. Any fitness instructor, whether teaching aerobics classes, working as a trainer at a gym or coaching in a specific sport, should be qualified to provide a workout that is safe as well as effective.

Warming up, cooling down and stretching

The warming-up and stretching elements of an exercise routine should never be neglected because these prepare the muscles and joints for movement. Cooling down afterwards is essential to slow the heart down gradually. Stretching after a workout prevents muscle soreness in the days that follow and enhances flexibility, which can protect against future injury.

Avoiding controversial exercises

Certain exercises may harm the body instead of improving fitness. Such exercises include straight leg lifts from a lying position, which strain the back; very deep squats, which strain the knees; and ballistic (bouncing) stretches, which can strain muscles. These exercises should only be performed under the guidance of an experienced trainer – or you may end up with the dreaded training injury.

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