Earlier this week, we started the discussion around sports injuries; what are they, how they happen and how they can affect us when they do. And unfortunately they probably will for most of us. We also introduced a couple of simple things that we could all do daily to help stop dreaded injuries in their tracks before they get a chance to stop us.
We are continuing that theme in today’s blog, but taking it one step further and taking a deeper dive into injury prevention as a concept and what things can help or hinder our ability to stave off those pesky aches, pains, niggles and injuries.
First of all, these blogs should by no means be taken as a formal diagnosis of any injury you may have. However, if in doubt, we recommend that you stop your current fitness routine and seek expert advice.
If you are experiencing any severe pain or a significant reduction in activity due to an injury, we recommend going to see your GP or another trained professional who can assess your condition properly and help get you back on track.
What is sports injury prevention?
Sports injury prevention relates to the sorts of activities and strategies that we can do to prevent, treat or reduce injuries sustained or caused by participating in physical activity.
Making sports injury prevention part of your daily routine should be as important as the physical activity you are doing each day. It not only helps you stay on track to achieving your fitness goals but it also contributes to keeping you safe and healthy whilst you do so.
How can sports injuries be prevented?
One of the first steps towards managing sports injuries and hopefully preventing them is IDENTIFYTING THE RISK FACTORS. There’s risks in everything we do of course and especially so in fitness and exercise but there’s no reason why this should stop us from participating in physical activity in the first place.
Take running for example; whilst it is generally a highly beneficial form of exercise for improving our overall health, it is incredibly damaging to the muscles, joints and bones in our lower limbs and for non-elite runners (that’s you and me), the risk of injury increases significantly.
In non-elite runners for example, the most important risks to consider are:
- Have you had a running-related injury before?
- Do you run more than 64kms per week?
- Do you complete any specific speed work or interval training?
When we identify the risks, we can then manage them by creating a structured training plan and choosing types of activity that we know are safe for us to carry out. There’s plenty of help and advice out there so you can do this on your own, but there will always be experts in your local area that can help with this too.
Train smarter, not harder
So you have your training plan, now it’s time to put in the hard yards and achieve our goals. But unfortunately it isn’t always as simple as that. This goes way beyond just taking a rest day every now and then. This is about learning about and understanding your body and your limits and adapting accordingly to them.
Sports injuries too often occur when we are overtraining or when we are using incorrect form and technique. Continuing to train under these conditions is a sure fire way to cause an injury or to make an existing one much, much worse. Being mindful of how we are feeling and moving is a great way to train smarter and reduce the risk of injury.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Our next Top Tip follows on from the one previous and it is to never underestimate the power and importance of warming up and cooling down!
When we are in a rush, who wants to spend time doing dynamic stretches and exercises? We just want to get that workout done, right?
Wrong! By skipping your warm up and cool down you are actually increasing your risk of developing an injury as your body needs to time to fire up and be ready to take on exercise and activity, whatever that may be.
Your warm up doesn’t need to add more than 5 to 10 minutes to your total workout time but we would also suggest that your cool down be twice as long as the warm up for example. This is to allow your heart rate to gradually drop to a more appropriate resting level and for your muscles to relax before we get on with everything else we might have to do that day.
If you are heading out for a run for example. A great warm up could be some skipping, leg swings, bodyweight squats and calf raises as these are all dynamic exercises that will get key muscle groups fired up and ready to go.
For your cool down, why not try ending your run 500m to 1km away from where you started and then walk that last bit home?
For the more advanced runners among you, you could try some running specific technique drills as part of your warm up. Enforcing good technique at all times is another great way to run efficiently and reduce the risk of injury.
The importance of sleep for recovery
The stresses of our day to day lives and of course the stresses and intensity of the exercise we are also doing can build up causing us to feel run down, fatigued and lose focus or motivation. Leaving us open to using improper form or technique the next time we exercise.
If our body isn’t fully recovered from the days before, applying more strain is only going to exaggerate the toll this is having on our nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system, your muscles, joints and bones; increasing your risk of injury every day.
Quality NOT quantity
We all want to get our beauty sleep, right? But what if we said that you can hijack your sleep to improve your recovery! And this next Top Tip is all about SLEEP HYGIENE which I’m sure you have heard of already as one of the things, that if done right, will be immeasurably good for our overall health.
The body does all its best work recovering and repairing when we sleep purely because it is much less distracted and physically busy. But simply getting more hours of sleep is unfortunately not the solution.
When it comes to sleep, it’s quality over quantity every time and that’s where sleep hygiene comes in as the way to optimise your sleep and really make it work for you.
Good practices include, regular bedtime and wake up times, minimal screen time and even avoiding caffeine or substantial meals in the run in to bedtime.
Intense exercise completed up to 3 hours before your bedtime can also have a negative impact on the quality of that night’s sleep; so planning ahead and being adaptable is really crucial.
Meditation practices like simple breath work routines or even moving meditations like Qigong, yoga or Tai Chi are often used to effectively wind down the body and mind and don’t have to stress us physically as much as HIIT workout will do.
The saying is true: good things take time. And it can take time to develop these habits, but over time they can start to make a positive difference in your ability to wind down your body and mind ready for sleep, and in doing so giving your body the best chance to recover every night.
Thanks for checking out our latest blog! We hope you enjoyed it. Let us know in the comments below if this helped you and don’t forget to share it with someone you know who would benefit from reading this blog too. The U Perform family loves sharing ideas and encouraging each other.
Stay tuned this month for even more on the topic of injury prevention and recovery and to find out all the ways in which nutrition can play a crucial role in supporting them. See you then!