An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. –Benjamin Franklin
As a physical therapist, I help people who have suffered from an injury through the process of rehabilitation. Accidents will happen, but certain activities can help you to avoid and limit the chance of an injury. Nothing will derail a perfectly designed training program like an injury. Optimize your health and lessen your risk of injury by being proactive upfront.
Top 10 Strategies to Avoid Injury:
1. Warm up prior to exercise. I recommend that you increase your normal warm up time by at least 10 minutes in order to increase blood flow to the area. This allows for better mobility and also promotes healing as movement is necessary to bring in the nutrients and remove any cellular waste products. I like to use a stationary bike or the rower machine initially to get the muscles warm and the knee joint more lubricated.
2. Cool down. After performing your exercises, take extra time to cool down and stretch. Use either a stationary bike (at a causal/slower pace) or the rower machine. Both are reduced weight bearing exercises that promote movement and circulation to the knee as well as provide range of motion (ROM). The perfect time to perform static stretching is after exercising. Work on those tight and restricted areas. Keep moving throughout the day and avoid sitting for extended periods of time.
3. Eat healthy. A healthy diet is critical to avoid injury. Your body tissue needs nutrients to be able to perform at a high level. Avoid processed food as much as possible. Limit sugary food and add more protein and healthy fat in your diet. Maintaining a diet with adequate healthy fats is essential in providing the nutrients to support all hormone function in the body as well as support the brain and nervous system. Adequate protein intake is necessary to support muscle health and development.
4. Stay hydrated. The human body is primarily made of water, which is critical for all body functions. Adequate water intake is critical to avoid dehydration which can negatively affect your training. Dehydrated tissues are prone to injury as they struggle to gain needed nutrients to heal and repair. Dehydrated tissues are less flexible and tend to accumulate waste products. Stay hydrated by drinking water. Try to avoid beverages that contain artificial sweeteners or chemicals with names you can’t spell or pronounce.
5. Supplement. I take certain supplements during times of heavy training volume or when I am in a phase of overreaching. I also take them intermittently to help prevent injury or heal from one.
My most recommended supplement is CapraFlex by Mt. Capra. Essentially, it combines an organic glucosamine and chondroitin supplement with other natural herbs which are designed to reduce inflammation. CapraFlex can be taken long term or intermittently to help heal from an injury.
I also recommend a colostrum supplement called CapraColostrum by Mt. Capra. Colostrum is the first milk produced by female mammals after giving birth. It contains a host of immunoglobulins, anti-microbial peptides, and other growth factors. It is especially good at strengthening the intestinal lining which prevents and heals conditions associated with a leaky gut. Colostrum can also help a person more effectively exercise in hotter conditions. Over all, it can boost the immune system, assist with intestinal issues, and help the body to recover faster.
Like CapraFlex, Tissue Rejuvenator by Hammer Nutrition contains glucosamine and chondroitin as well as a host of herbs, spices, and enzymes to help support tissues and limit inflammation. I recommend taking either CapraFlex OR Tissue Rejuvenator. You can take CapraColostrum independently or in conjunction with either CapraFlex or Tissue Rejuvenator.
I recommend taking these supplements for injury prevention or as a recovery strategy. I recommend trying a 14-30 day protocol. (Please consult with your pharmacist and/or physician prior to starting any new supplementation protocol.)
6. Take cross training seriously. Performing the same activity day after day without variation can lead to overuse injuries or muscle imbalances. You may spend a majority of your time specifically training for a particular sport or activity, but it is important to vary the training load and/or stimulus. Not only can cross training limit your risk of injury, it makes training fun by keeping the body stimulated and ready to improve.
7. Actively manage your aches and pains. Spot train your weak areas and work on whole body mobility and fitness. Don’t neglect the small stuff as it will catch up with you sooner or later. Consider seeing a masseuse for regular body work. To learn how to use a foam roller for self-treatment, please refer to Foam Rolling for Rehabilitation.
8. If it hurts, don’t do it! Modify the activity or discontinue it completely. Modify any exercise as you need to, and don’t compromise technique to complete an exercise. Poor technique will only increase your risk of injury elsewhere. Work with your coach or athletic trainer to determine if poor form and technique is causing the pain. With instruction, you may avoid pain and injury while taking your training to the next level.
9. Adequate rest is important. Your body must rest in order to grow and develop. Training every day is not the best way to improve. It can lead to injury and burn out. Take a rest day and have fun. Participate in a yoga class, take a leisurely bike ride, or take a walk in the park. If you are participating in a yearly training cycle, be sure to incorporate an off season which involves a change of pace from your regular training and some active rest. Proper programming includes mini cycles with an off season as well as active rest cycles in between heavy load and heavy volume training cycles.
10. Seek help early. If you are experiencing chronic aches or pain or are struggling with an aspect of your training, seek help immediately. A healthy lifestyle is a lifelong pursuit. If you are injured or not enjoying an activity, you will not stay engaged or motivated in the long term. Seeking advice specifically from a running coach, physical therapist, or physician can be beneficial.
Unfortunately, injuries will occur. However, incorporating these strategies will reduce your risk of injury while likely taking your training and exercise program to the next level. If and when an injury occurs, take it seriously and manage it quickly.
How do you avoid injury? Which particular strategy has aided in your recovery? Please leave your comments below.
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