So for those of you who are planning to revamp your fitness regimen, or undertake something like a 12 week challenge, read our top 8 tips for getting through the challenge injury free and fitter than ever!
1. Build up Gradually
It has been well established that biological tissue adapts to the level of stress placed upon it. Repeated applied stress (ie exercise) that is below the tensile limit of the tissue, will have positive effects on the tissue if sufficient time is given between the applied stress.
Put simply, the stress of exercise works as a trigger for your muscles to increase in size, strength and efficiency, so that when we go to perform the same exercise again it will be easier- our body adapts.
If we apply too much stress too soon that is beyond the tensile limits of the tissue, this will lead to injury rather than adaptation. 60% of running injuries can be attributed to training errors. An individual who has sustained an overuse running injury must have exceeded their limit of load (running distance/intensity) in such a way that remodeling of the injured tissue predominates the repair process.
Increase your load by no more than 10-15% each week, so that your muscles have a chance to adapt safely and prevent you from loading them beyond their biological limits. Load includes the amount of weight you're lifting and the distance you're running.
2. Don't be a "Weekend Warrior"
We often see people in the clinic on Mondays who do little activity during the week, and then when the weekend rolls around bust out a couple of exercise classes, a long ride and several hours in the garden and wind up in a lot of pain.
Our bodies need regular activity to maintain strength, fitness and flexibility. So if you're only getting active over the weekend, and have a relatively sedentary job (like most of us), you can't expect to get a weeks worth of exercise in two days and have the same effect on your body as if you spread this out evenly throughout the week.
It's all about the adaptation process! You want to give your body regular repeated stimulus to respond and adapt to exercise.
Consistency is key!
3. Warm Up!
Take 5-10 minutes to literally warm up your body prior to commencing a work out. The idea behind warming up is that you are increasing the elasticity of your muscles which helps to improve the smoothness of muscular contractions, as well as mentally preparing yourself for the task ahead.
It is generally agreed upon that the best warm up is something specific to what you are wanting to do in your sport or exercise. For example, if you're planning to go for a run, doing a few running drills (butt kicks, high knees, side ways running etc) will help you warm up the key muscles about to be used. If its strength training, a set of the exercise you are about to do without weight is a good idea.
Stretching, on the other hand, is quite a controversial topic. There is some evidence that stretching doesn't reduce your risk of injury, and can even increase your risk of injury if performing static stretches prior to performing an exercise. What we recommend at QOL is to perform some dynamic stretches prior to exercises, and static stretches after your session.
Dynamic stretches are "through range: movements of the joint, as opposed to a static stretch which requires you to hold your muscle in a lengthened position for 20-30seconds. Dynamic stretches can include swinging your legs forwards and backwards (repeat 10 times), swinging them sideways, raising up/down on your toes, lunging side to side, swinging your arms forwards/backwards. A simple Google search will show you a plethora of stretches.
4. Balance Your Training
A well balanced training program will include:
- Strength training: 2 sessions per week
- Aerobic Fitness: 150 minutes per week
Strength training is fantastic for building muscle and strong bones, which help to prevent osteoporosis, as well as preventing injuries (see tip 6). At least 2 sessions of strength training is recommended per week to maintain muscle mass.
Aerobic fitness includes any exercise that uses large muscle groups to increase your heart rate (walking, cycling, running, swimming. boxing). The better your aerobic fitness, the more efficient your heart, lungs, and blood vessels become at transporting oxygen around your body, and the more efficient you will be at performing routine every day tasks. For most adults, it is recommended to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
If you aren't overly flexible, try to include at least one session of a physical activity that works on improving your flexibility, such as pilates, yoga, Tai Chi, or even just a general stretching session.
The take home message is to cross train if you want to avoid injury. This means varying your exercise so that you give those muscles a break that you've worked yesterday but working different muscles today. This allows time for one set of muscles that have been worked on to rest and recover, while still being able to exercise to reach your strength, fitness and health goals.
5. Do Your Sport Right!
Using the correct technique when performing an exercise will reduce your risk of overuse injury, such as tendonitis and stress fractures.
Strength training should be difficult and uncomfortable, but not painful!
If you are unsure, learn the correct technique from your personal trainer (if using one), or ask your physio to ensure that you aren't placing excessive strain on your muscles and joints.
6. Do Strength Training
Strength training has been proved to reduce your risk of injury, especially for women.
- It increases bone mineral density and bone strength to protect you from fractures.
- It increases muscle mass, as well as the size and strength of connective tissue (collagen), reducing the incidence and severity of strains.
- Resistance training has a positive effect on reducing back pain.
- A tailored resistance training program can balance out muscles working around a joint to help recover from injury caused by muscle imbalance.
Take at least 1 day off of moderate to vigorous activity per week in order for your muscles to recover and adapt to the stress you've placed upon them with exercise.
Rest allows your muscles to replenish energy stores, rebuild and strengthen. If you don't have at least one day off of exercise, you run the risk of developing Over-training Syndrome- a condition whereby lack of recovery leads to tissue breakdown and weakening of the immune system, Symptoms include fatigue not resolved with rest, malaise, depression, decreased performance, frequent sickness, insomnia, headaches, joint aches, moodiness and irritability.
Rest and recovery doesn't mean you have to literally stop all activity on that day. An active recovery is a great way to give your body a break, whilst still getting out and being able to enjoy the mental benefits of exercise. An active recovery can include a relaxing walk, foam rolling session, remedial massage, or stretch session.
At QOL, we have a remedial massage therapist on site for your convenience. Call (08) 9345 9842 to help improve your recovery.
8. Listen to Your Body, Don't Ignore Pain!
Ongoing pain can be a sign of tissue inflammation and breakdown, possibly due to not performing an exercise correctly or with a load that is too high for your body to withstand.
You may have altered biomechanics due to shortened muscles restricting your movement, reduced strength of key muscles that aren't controlling the movement, or you simply may be moving your body in a way that is placing excessive strain on muscles, tendons and joints causing inflammation and pain.
It is important to seek help early with your physiotherapist, rather than putting up with the pain and creating a bigger problem that what it could have been, and having to take too much time off training. As physiotherapists, we are skilled at modifying your exercise or movement so that you are working to your bodies capacity in a safe way, and giving you expert advice on how to progress from that point so that you can carry on doing what you love doing!
Call (08) 9345 0842 to book in for a consultation with one of our experienced physiotherapists today to get on top of your pain before it stops you doing what you love!