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Those Pesky Injuries

It doesn’t seem fair.  You finally got yourself into a fitness routine and your hard work is starting to show.  You are losing some weight; your body is looking more toned and you feel great!  Suddenly, with no warning and for no apparent reason you become injured.  What happened?

Fitness injuries are avoidable in many instances.  Often when probed as to the cause, a participant will indicate that they did their usual workout, but they got hurt.  My first question is did they warm up?  A five to ten minute warm up consisting of any activity that will raise the heart rate and mobilize the joints/connective tissue and increase the temperature of the muscle is not just for beginners!!!  Countless times I have watched people come in from the freezing cold, tie up their runners and begin performing heavy lifts.  It is imperative that you warm up before beginning your strength training or cardio program.  Likewise, it is essential that once your workout is completed, you take a few extra minutes to cool down and stretch.  Stretches should be held for 20 to 30 seconds per muscle group and just to the point of mild tension.

Many injuries in the gym occur because the load or weight being used is simply way too heavy.  I recommend starting strength exercises with a light or half-load set to engage the muscles and prepare them for a heavier load.  If you are stressing so hard to complete a repetition that your form is affected, you are not only doing the exercise a disservice, you are setting yourself up for an injury.  A common example is a standing biceps curl with too heavy a load.  The biceps can’t handle the weight, so the person uses their body to try to swing the weight upwards with momentum.  This is a fabulous way to injure your back and it really doesn’t improve the strength of the biceps. 

If you are unsure as to how to perform a strength exercise, there is huge potential for injury.  Be aware of the dos and don’ts by receiving proper instruction before trying new exercises.  Copying other members can sometimes be a bad idea – just because someone looks like they know what they are doing doesn’t necessarily mean they do!!

Many people suffer injuries due to over-use and/or unbalanced programs. For example, a runner who never cross trains or takes any days off is likely to suffer from knee problems, low back pain and/or hip issues.  A person who only trains abs and never balances this work with low back exercise could potentially harm their low back over time.  Over trained quadriceps (front thigh muscles) and under-worked hamstrings (back thigh muscles) can contribute to knee and even low back problems.

Some over-use injuries occur due to improper footwear.  This is primarily in cardio situations where impact takes place, such as running and aerobics but there have been many walkers who have experienced footwear related problems as well!  Ensure that your footwear is properly fitted and appropriate to your sport.  Replace shoes regularly depending on your activity level.  Shoes that look new may be worn out.  If you are suddenly experiencing sore shins or knees and your runners are old, you should consider replacing them.

Finally, if you have suffered an injury it is important to seek medical advice if you have sharp, sudden pain or any pain that doesn’t lessen within a few days.  Your physician can recommend proper treatment including ice/heat, physiotherapy, massage, etc. and an expected recuperation time.  Listen to your body and pay attention to your exercises and activities.  Avoiding injury is much easier than treating it!

Nina Heyes

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