Updated: Nov 7, 2020
The start of a new year brings great motivation for new health and fitness goals. But if you are thinking of starting a new sport or trying a new training programme, you may be increasing your risk of developing an overuse injury.
There are a few common mistakes that people make when adopting a new fitness regime, here are some tips on how to reduce your risk of developing an injury:
1) Warm up. This is essential, as it enables time for the body to prepare for physical exertion. Additionally, a warm up allows for more blood, oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to your muscles, thereby optimising your performance. You don't need to do anything extravagant, a warm up can simply consist of a slower and lower intensity of the exercise you are just about to perform. A warm up should take a minimum of five minutes, but ideally ten minutes. Avoid passive stretches in which you assume a position and hold it, because they can lead to muscle tears.
2) Pace yourself. It may be incredibly tempting to dive straight into a new sport, especially if you already have a good level of fitness and want a new challenge. However, different sports/activities require different movement patterns. Your body constantly adapts to stresses and movements, enabling specific muscles and connective tissue to strengthen- so allow it time to adapt!
3) Gradually increase the volume. People commonly have a preconception of what they should achieve in an exercise session when they start back at the gym/a sport. This is something that people find hard to judge and it really does depend on your current activity level and how long it has been since you exercised. During the first few sessions you should not focus on the result but instead listen to how your body feels. If you feel pain in your joints, do not push through it, reduce the intensity or maybe start to cool down. Try again tomorrow! Ideally you should increase your exercise load/ volume by no more than 10% a week. For example, if you went running for 10 minutes, try 11 the next week!
4) Vary the type of exercise. Some people tend to stick to either cardiovascular or weight training, but both complement each other. For optimal training effects, you should leave it at least 8 hours between cardiovascular training and strength training. Even if you always do yoga, alternate it with other programs, such as dancing, tennis, or water aerobics. The variety will work different muscle groups, prevent boredom, and give your body a chance to recover between sessions.
5) Rest days. It doesn't matter how fit you are, rest days are essential. This doesn't justify you sitting down all day. A rest day simply means that you are not placing excess physical exertion on the body. So do low impact/ intensity activities such as walking are great.
6) Keep hydrated. Water is essential to optimise your metabolic rate. You lose water throughout your workouts via sweating and breathing. Water is also important to allow for for the removal of by-products of metabolism to be removed from the muscles; dehydration is a reason for fainting, increased appetite, fatigue and muscle cramps.
7) Eat well to promote recovery. A wholesome, balanced diet increases your body's rate of recovery and allows for adaptations to occur. Carbohydrates are used to refuel glycogen stores in the muscles and are essential as they are the only source of fuel for your brain. Protein is used to build and repair muscles, bones and connective tissue. Vitamins and minerals from fresh fruits and vegetables are used for every metabolic function in the body but vitamins C, E and Omega 3 (which you can get from walnuts, flax seeds, algae and hemp) are especially powerful antioxidants which help to combat any oxidative stress from the physical activities.
8) Don't lose joint mobility from doing repetitive activities! Stretch and cool down post-workout. Many exercises involve repetitive motions, contracting and shortening muscles groups. For example cycling, predominantly recruits the hip flexors, quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Which if not stretched, influence the person's biomechanics and loading through the joints, that could increase your risk of injury.
9) Get a qualified instructor to assess your technique. I.e a strength and conditioning coach at the gym or your osteopathic practitioner to assess your movements during your appointment.
You don't have to wait until you have an injury before you go to see an Osteopathic Practitioner. Osteopathy uses your body's own movement to optimise function, reduce your risk of injury and improve your recovery time.