Most people begin fitness and exercise programs such as running to improve their health, yet they don’t think about injury prevention.
Once they gain some experience and learn to enjoy regular workouts, they often expand their goals.
Walking 10,000 steps a day is fine for weekdays, but on weekends they shoot for 50,000 because their neighbor did 40,000.
Finishing a two-mile run four times a week is no longer enough. They want to compete in a half-marathon.
Bench-pressing 100 pounds is not enough. They want to lift 150 pounds.
Such secondary goals are fine to keep up your motivation and make working out fun and exciting, but sometimes they allow the secondary goals to become primary, overriding common sense.
If you forget your goal of better health to train like a professional athlete, you become susceptible to overuse injuries. That makes injury prevention even more important.
Professional Athletes Must Specialize, but You Don’t
With lots of money, team standings and world records resting on their performances, world class athletes must focus on the demands their sport makes on their bodies.
Unlike Acute Injuries, Overuse Injuries Happen Over Time
If you fail to warm up properly and then strain your hamstring, that’s an acute injury. It’s usually a one-time event.
Overuse injuries are more insidious because the develop over time. Warming up and cooling down can help, but the basic problem is . . . overusing parts of your body.
Stress is an Athlete’s Best Friend, Only the Right Amount
Remember, for athletes, stress is a good thing. Go from a sedentary lifestyle to walking around the block five times, and your body goes whooaaa, now I have to adapt to more demands. While you sleep it repairs your leg muscles to make them a little stronger. It strengthens your heart and expands your lungs.
When you first begin exercising after years of vegetating on the couch, you may require two days to recover from walking around the block five times. Do it again, and it’s still stressful, but your body continues to adapt to that level of stress.
After a few weeks you’re able to walk around the block six or seven times.
All athletic training works on the same principle. You push your body beyond its comfort zone to force it to adapt to the greater stress, but not too far past the comfort zone. In the process you become stronger and healthier.
Overuse Injuries Result From Too Much Stress
If you try to go from a sedentary lifestyle to running a marathon, you’re bound to fail, because that’s just too big of a jump to make on your first day.
Top trainers and coaches know how to keep athletes improving gradually. They need to work out enough to keep improving, but not so hard they cannot properly recover from one day to the next.
If You Drastically Increase Your Duration, Intensity or Frequency of Exercise . . .
You risk overuse injuries.
Proper technique is also important for injury prevention. Many popular exercises are designed to work out muscles groups efficiently and safely. Do them in an unbalanced way, and you risk straining your body unnaturally.
No Pain, No Gain is Not an Intelligent Slogan to Adopt
Try: “Just enough low-level pain from the build up of muscular lactic acid and heavy breathing to force a mild adaptive response.”
That’s not as catchy, but it’s more sensible.
Adopt the 10% Rule
Do not increase your workouts by more than 10% from one week to the next.
Web MD advises increasing weight lifts by no more than 2% from session to session.
Do Different Things
Nobody says you have to run only. Or swim only. Or use an elliptical machine only. Or play tennis only.
Unlike the top athletes, you have the flexibility to enjoy a wide variety of activities. Take advantage of it. Switch things up. All exercise improves your heart and lung power, and by using different muscle groups through the week you’ll develop better all-around strength and fitness.
Use the Right Equipment
When I running, I cheaped out. I bought a pair of running shoes from a big-box stores.
Within a month I had muscle strain in my thigh, and the sole of of one of the shoes was falling apart.
Now I spend a lot more money on a pair of Brooks Beasts, but they last a lot longer. Even when the heel wears down, I can wear them for ordinary activities. The soles aren’t torn open.
I do NOT wear my good pair of running shoes for walking around. Those are only for wearing while I run.
I am NOT a fan of barefoot or near-barefoot running. However, my situation may be different than yours. I go barefoot in my home and office. And I usually wear flipflops for walking around, down the street and taking care of business. It’s normal where I live.
Watch Out for Signs of Overtraining
That’s when you’re pushing yourself so hard your body does not have enough time to rest and recover between workouts.
If you’re not sleeping soundly, you no longer enjoy your workouts but are determined to keep toughing them out, you’re always in a bad mood and your heart runs fast in the morning . . . take a break.
Cut down on the workouts. Take a day off. Swim instead of run. Or play a round of golf instead.
Remember that you’re exercising for health, not to win medals, beat the person next to you or even to break your personal best time. If you do suffer from an injury, you’re back on the coach, growing fatter and weaker.
That’s why injury prevention to keep from getting overuse injuries is vital to your exercise program.
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