Workout injuries can put you out of commission for weeks or sometimes months. Fitness expert Meredith Miller of Level 10 Fitness shares a plethora of tips to help prevent injuries while getting in shape.
1. Warm Up
One of the most important ways to avoid injury is to do a comprehensive warm-up before every workout. Your starting point should be between six to ten minutes, or until you have broken a light sweat. This raises the body’s core temperature enough to enhance the elasticity of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and overall joint structures, and prepares you for the tough workout ahead.
2. Cool Down
After exercising, cool down. Decrease the intensity of your exercise and continue to move for five more minutes, then do slow, static stretching for another five to ten minutes. Cooling down helps your body adjust to temperature changes. A good cooldown allows for a proper decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, it prevents blood from pooling in your legs, and it promotes the removal of lactic acid, which helps decrease muscular soreness. Make sure to stretch slowly and gently, stopping short of pain. Inhale and exhale regularly.
3. Wear the Right Shoes
The right shoes should fit well and be designed specifically for the activity you’re involved in.
4. Get Proper Rest
If you’re tired or didn’t get a sufficient amount of sleep the night before, cut down on the duration or intensity of the exercise. Also, give your body adequate time to recover, ideally twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Your muscles need that recovery time.
5. Drink Plenty of Water
It’s important to drink before, during, and after exercise. Water is your body’s principal chemical component, comprising 60 percent of your weight on average. Every system in your body depends on it, and it flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose, and throat tissue.
However, learn to sip—not gulp! Give your body time to absorb what you’re drinking, instead of drinking so much that it doesn’t know what to do. The more you exercise, the more fluid you’ll need to stay hydrated. An extra one or two cups of water should suffice for short stints of exercise, but intense activity lasting more than an hour (for example, running a marathon) requires additional fluid. How much you intake depends on the amount you sweat during the exercise, but thirteen- to twenty-six-ounces (or about two to three cups) an hour will generally be adequate, unless the weather is exceptionally warm.
During long bouts of intense exercise, it’s best to consume a sports drink, as this will help replace sodium lost in perspiration and reduce the chances of developing hyponatremia, which can be life threatening. Fluid should also be replaced after exercise. Drinking sixteen ounces of fluid per pound of body weight lost during exercise is recommended.
6. Stay Hydrated in Warm Weather
Drink plenty of water—don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, as well as a hat or sun visor, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Exercise should be slower with less intensity, and you should be aware of symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as weakness, dizziness, rapid pulse, headache, muscle cramps, decreased sweating, and nausea. In extreme heat, exercise early in the day or later in the evening.
7. Wear Proper Clothing in Cold Weather
In cold weather, wear a hat and warm clothing to prevent heat loss. Avoid overdressing, therefore, wear layers that can be removed as you warm up. Wear loose clothing—it traps layers of air and provides good insulation. Water increases the rate of heat loss and decreases the insulation value of clothing, so remove damp or wet clothing as soon as possible.
8. Heed the Pain
Do not ignore pain—it’s your body’s response to injury or overuse. As you get accustomed to exercise, you’ll be able to better distinguish between soreness and pain. Soreness may develop one to two days after a workout and dissipate twenty-four to forty-eight hours later. Pain can occur immediately and persist in everything you do.
9. Do Not Over Train
Make sure that your frequency and intensity are within reason—don’t exercise too often or too hard. Give your body enough time to recover from an intense workout (twenty-four to forty-eight hours). If you feel like you have an impending illness, take a break. Overtraining when you’re on the brink of getting sick only wears your immune system down further.
10. Care for Your Injuries
For treatment of minor injuries, ice it, baby! Rest the injured area by reducing activity and immobilizing it. Ice the injured area for twenty minutes on, with forty minutes off, to help decrease inflammation and pain. Compress the injured area by wrapping it for at least thirty minutes to prevent swelling and elevate it above the level of your heart. If pain or swelling worsens after twenty-four hours, see a physician.
11. Eat for Injury Prevention
Eating fresh food that’s in season and full of nutrients will help you stay healthy and reduce the possibility of injury. Brightly colored vegetables contain natural antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that the body can use to detoxify, heal, and decrease inflammation.
If you’re recovering from an injury, avoid inflammatory foods such as coffee, chocolate, dairy, sugar, potatoes, corn, peanuts, and wheat. These are difficult for the body to digest and create inflammation. With less inflammation, your pain will decrease and your body will heal more effectively. You’ll also experience other benefits from these simple dietary changes.
Originally published on TheSavvyGal
Updated on February 21, 2011