Long evenings are here for a few more months, and the summer holidays are looming, so it's time to get the beach body ready. But how do we do this without getting injured? Here are our top ten tips for reducing injury risk.
We all know this is the obvious one, but how many people take time to warm up properly. A good warm-up should consist of 3 phases:
1. Pulse raiser, light exercise to gradually increase heart rate.
2. Mobility or dynamic stretching to get your joints moving through a full range of motion.
3. Skill rehearsal, getting your body used to your sport's movements. This is the time when you might practice running drills.
Sleep is hugely neglected, but it is the time when our bodies repair and adapt. It is recommended that adults require 8 hours of undisturbed sleep every night. If your exercise levels are increasing, you must sleep appropriately so that your body can recover properly.
This can be scary if you are new to running, especially as flat shoes or shoes that don't fit well could cause you some pain. But do not worry, buying trainers is not that complicated. When going into a sports shop, identify the trainers that are designed for your sport, discard any that are out of your budget, and discard any you do not like the look of. Then find all those that fit correctly and buy the most comfortable. Yes it really is that simple.
Food provides us with energy and the body's building blocks. If the body does not have enough energy or protein, exercise becomes hard work, and we struggle to recover afterwards. Carbohydrates and fat are our energy sources. We need the energy to move and repair ourselves. Proteins are the body's building blocks; without these, the body can not recover or adapt.
The more time you give yourself to achieve your goal, the better. The body takes time to adapt to a new exercise regime; it can't be rushed. As a result, any changes to activity need to be small and gradual. If your new exercise regime feels easy to start with, do not be tempted to progress it quickly. The accumulated stress on the body will build up over time and eventually lead to injury. When setting your goals, give yourself plenty of time so progression can be gradual.
Make small adjustments
A rough rule of thumb is to increase your exercise by 10% each week. This is OK for average athletes, but it does not work well for people new to exercise, elite athletes or those recovering from injury. If you are a fairly healthy adult with no underlying health conditions and not overweight, you may want to consider reducing this to 5% each week. If you are overweight and have not exercised for 20 years, you may want to reduce this 2-3% each week.
Do not neglect strength training
There are many different types of fitness, including aerobic, strength and flexibility. Activities like running, walking, cycling and swimming are great at keeping our hearts and lungs fit, and if you are new to exercise, they will also improve your musculoskeletal strength too. If we want to maintain a strong and healthy musculoskeletal system, we have to carry out strength exercises as well. This does involve lifting weight or moving against resistance. This is especially true for women over 35 whose oestrogen levels may be reducing.
Do not rest aches but reduce load
It has been a long-held belief that injuries need to be rested. This is partly true as we do need to rest injuries, but only for a short time, 6 weeks for a broken bone but only 24-48 hours for most ligament or tendon injuries. After a short rest period, we need to start loading the injured tissues gradually. If we rest for too long, the body rapidly becomes weaker and more prone to injury. Rehab aims to maintain as much strength as possible whilst activity levels are reduced.
Not all sessions have to be maximal
If you are new to exercise, you are probably highly motivated to lose weight, improve strength and get that new body you desire. So you go hell for leather at each exercise session because logic says the harder you work, the quicker you will get that new body. However, the more you fatigue your body, the longer you need to recover.
Maximal exercise can also disturb your sleep and reduce your body's ability to absorb nutrients; as mentioned above, sleep and nutrition are vital for recovery. If you are carrying out 3 exercise sessions each week, it is recommended that one should be close to maximal and the other two should be sub maximal.
Seek professional guidance when needed
If you do not know what you are doing, seek professional help. Every sports club has someone who talks the talk; sometimes this person can be very knowledgeable, other times their knowledge is out of date or they just don't like to admit that they don't know something. It's always best to seek professional advice, especially if your concerns are injury or health-related.