Can you relate to this scenario? After putting it off for too long, you commit to get fit—only to find yourself injured the minute you start working out. Yes it sucks.
All of the sudden your fitness goals go back on the shelf and you are left to deal with the pain. Whether your injury occurs right off the bat or after years of regular workouts the result is always the same. It is discouraging, painful and downright depressing.
And since studies suggest that up to 38% of all exercisers suffer from an injury each year, it is a subject worth exploring.
top three workout injuries
The following three injuries are fairly common among active people. Let’s explore the cause of each and then detail your very own injury prevention plan—because let’s face it, you simply don’t have time to spend nursing and injury (and losing all that progress you had made).
1. Strain / Pulled Muscle: occurs when a tendon (connects muscle to bone) or muscle is stretched or torn. If you suffer from a strain you will feel pain and swelling in the muscle belly, or loss of function if the strain occurred in a tendon. Many strains occur as the result of an improper warm-up and insufficient stretching.
2. Sprain: occurs when a ligament (connects bone to bone) is stretched or torn. While this can happen to any ligament in your body, the most common placements of sprains are in the ankle, wrist and knee. Often this injury will happen suddenly as the ligament is stretched beyond its normal limit, usually during a fall or other acute trauma.
3. Low Back Pain: it is said that 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives—and the list of causes is as diverse as the sufferers themselves. Here are the main reasons for workout related back pain:
Your 5-Step Injury Prevention Plan
Injuries don’t have to slow you from meeting your fitness goals. The following 5 steps will dramatically reduce your chance of injury and if you do find yourself injured, but have been following these 5 steps, your recovery will be quick and efficient.
Step 1: Stretch
What is more boring than stretching? You want to exercise, not sit around touching your toes—right? Even though it isn’t exciting, stretching is the best way to increase muscle elasticity and durability. Tight muscles are big contributors to strains—remember? Take the time to stretch everyday before and after your workout to stave off injury.
Step 2: Warm Up
Preparing for your workout should not begin and end with putting on your gym clothes. Your muscles need to be coaxed into motion by way of a 10-15 minute warm up in order to prepare them for injury-free use. Cold muscles are less elastic and are therefore more prone to tears.
Step 3: Proper Gear
For most fitness enthusiasts proper gear has everything to do with their shoes. Don’t be fooled—not just any shoe will do. Find shoes that offer support and traction for your exercise of choice, and make sure that they aren’t too tight or too loose. If you are prone to ankle injuries then try a pair of high-tops for extra support.
Step 4: Lifestyle
Stop for a moment and think about your car—if you don’t maintain it with regular tune ups, oil changes and quality fuel then you can’t expect it to perform well on the road. The same applies to your body. Getting healthy amounts of sleep, eating well balanced meals and staying hydrated will all contribute to your performance during exercise. The healthier your lifestyle is the less likely you are to suffer an injury.
Step 5: Condition
This may seem like the most obvious step to injury prevention, but unfortunately it is the most overlooked. People who keep their bodies in top condition by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are the least likely to injure themselves. When exercise programs are started and stopped sporadically your muscles are most likely to become injured.
Of course being conditioned also has another great benefit that everyone enjoys - you get to look and feel great! And who doesn’t what that, right?
How to Eat If You're Injured
So you're on the couch, bored out of your mind and figure a few weeks of eating "not so healthy" high-fat, high-carb, inflammatory foods is no big deal and that you'll get back on track once you're healed.
Awful, awful idea.
Here's the thing. When your body is healing, there's a lot of inflammation happening. This is normal and part of the healing process. The last thing you want to do is add to that by eating junk.
When you're injured, the key is to focus on anti-inflammatory foods. Think healthy fats like avocados, olive oil and nuts like almonds and walnuts. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards are also awesome and if you like fish, think fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. I'd be remiss not to mention my all time favorite anti-inflammatory foods: broccoli, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and dark chocolate (shoot for a bare minimum of 70% cocoa.) Yummy!
I'd also suggest Turmeric. Turmeric is a spice often used in Indian dishes with a strong, earthy flavor. It contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. Eating black pepper with turmeric can significantly enhance the absorption of curcumin.
Lastly, I would double your normal intake of Krill Oil (or Fish Oil but I prefer Krill Oil).
The Final Word
The bottom line is whether you're injured or not, these are sound strategies to help minimize inflammation. Chronic inflammation, even low levels can lead to disease. Do your best to keep inflammation in check by choosing a wide variety of these delicious, antioxidant-rich foods.
And of course, the ultimate injury prevention plan is to educate yourself, take action and work with a qualified fitness expert. Together we can craft a plan for your unique fitness goals and get you to where you want to be. Have a great day and feel free to reach out to me on Facebook with any questions!
Coach George here!