How to prevent injury this new year
Updated: May 24
So it's a new year.. and most of us are full of motivation to get fit again. After a long party season, no doubt most people are feeling sluggish, tired and a bit fuller than they would like. And often the best way to blast the kilos away and get back to feeling great again is to hit the gym hard, right? Wrong.
Overtraining and overloading workouts for a quick fix is the fastest way to get injured and seriously set your new year plans back. By February we (Physio's) see it every year. It is actually heartbreaking telling a client they have a serious injury that may take 6-12-18 weeks to heal. Especially when their faces are so full of motivation to keep exercising.
Lets start with how most soft tissue injuries occur. Sports and Musculoskeletal injuries are classed as acute (less than 3 months onset) and chronic (more than 3 months) onset. Acute injuries are often; ligament sprains, muscle strains, disc or cartliage injuries. Chronic Injuries are often; tendon injury (tendinopathy), inflammation, bone stress or stress fracture. Usually acute injuries are sudden. You feel pain, hear a noise (snap, crack) and you are 'acutely' aware something is wrong. Chronic injuries can sneak up. They may start with what you think is the usual post-exercise soreness but then it happens after every workout, then every morning waking up and getting out of bed until the pain or discomfort or weakness is almost constant. Excessive and rapid increases in training loads are likely responsible for a large proportion of non-contact soft tissue injuries ( Gabbett 2016) An acute or chronic injury occurs when the force is too great for the tissue to sustain. This can be sudden large force (acute injury) or repetitive ongoing force (chronic injury).
If you have a muscle imbalance (weakness) or joint stiffness or flexibility issue you can be more likely to injure that tissue. Often we can pick this up with a screening assessment.
1. PREVENTION IS KEY: We do return to exercise screening. Similar to the pre-competition screenings we do with elite athletes this is a full musculoskeletal screening of your flexibility, joint mobility, strength, stability and co ordination. This helps identify which areas of your body you may need to focus on to prevent a likely injury.
2. PICK THE RIGHT EXERCISE: We all have different body types an different injury histories. Picking the right type of exercise and frequency is key to not getting sore or injured and sticking with the routine longer. We can help with this.
3. DON'T WAIT: If you think you may have an injury and that post exercise soreness is lingering please come see us straight away. Once you have had an injury for months it takes much longer to go away.
4. SEE A REGISTERED PROFESSIONAL: Come see us - A PHYSIO or your Doctor. Resist Dr Google or the advice from a friend or trainer at the gym. See a Physio who is trained in injury diagnosis and management. Knowing exactly what you need to do to heal an injury early on makes it go away faster.
5. START SLOW: If you haven't exercised for 3 or more weeks, start with one day on one day off. No more than 2 strength training days a week. Try 30-45 min sessions only and moderate intensity exercise. Don't launch into high intensity training right away. You can still do F45, Cross fit or 12 Round if that's your choice. Just have the discipline to take it easy. Don't try to beat the person next to you. Or you'll end up losing with an injury. On your off days 'rest days' you could still go for a 30-60min walk depending on how active you have been.
6. WHEN DO I STRETCH?: Stretching before or after a workout has no clear evidence that it reduces muscle soreness or prevents injury. (Cochrane 2011) We suggest stretching the muscles you know you have flexibility issue with. We can help assess this and often a screening assessment will help you identify which to target.
7. ELITE ATHLETES:
You can choose to monitor internal or external training loads. External loads may mean wearing a heart rate monitor and recoding what you actually did in the session. To monitor internal training load by recording your RPE (rating of perceived exertion) or intensity of the session. On a scale of 1-10. So you measure RPE score x minutes of exercise. We advise athletes or those exercising a lot to generally not increase training load more than 10%-15% each week, this has been proven to minimise risk of injury. (Gabbett 2016).
If you do get injured, don't be disheartened. Often we just need to tweak your training program slightly, or mix it up a bit with some swimming, cross-training, yoga or pilates until the injury heals. We can help with guiding this process so you heal as fast as possible. So please ask.