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5 Tips for Staying Injury Free While Staying Physically Active

by Jon Herting, PT, DPT, CSCS, ACSM HF/S, USAW

1. Recovery

5_tips_for_staying_injury_free_while_staying_physically_active_picThere are several components of recovery that need to be addressed if one is going to fully prepare their body for the next workout. Sleep is the first component, and we all know how lack of sleep can affect all aspects of life.

At some point or another you have heard that we need at least eight hours of sleep a night. In fact, it has been shown that getting less than six hours of sleep increases inflammatory proteins in the blood. Not to mention the effects of lack of sleep on cognition, mental performance, and memory. Sleep can also affect your physical performance, not allowing you to perform optimally during training or competition. In other words, don’t neglect sleep—it is one of the most important aspects to recovery and optimal performance.

Soft tissue work is another aspect of optimal recovery. This includes foam rolling or getting a massage; and this should be done on a daily basis. Taking 10 minutes a day to provide self- massage with a foam roller will optimally prepare the muscle for your next workout or help you to recover from a previous workout. You should also be beginning each workout with a quick foam rolling session to prepare your muscles for the rigors of the workout to come. This will help to prevent injury and reduce soreness post workout.

Stress management. Being in a high stress state can lead to soft tissue changes like tightness, nervous system changes that place increased stress on the heart, or physiological changes that make storing fat easier. Being able to properly manage stress will not only help you stay injury free but will also improve your overall outlook on life. Disciplines like yoga, tai chi, and other forms of meditation daily can help you manage stress more effectively.

As you can see, being able to properly recover can impact your workouts in many ways. Recovery should be a daily component of your program and is often the most neglected but most important part. Being more mindful of your recovery on a daily basis can help increase your gains exponentially.

2. Nutrition

nutrition_for_workouts_imageIf you are on this site, we know that nutrition is important to you, and you are well aware of the impact that proper nutrition can have on your energy levels during your workout or recovery from said workout. Properly fueling our bodies with the proper ratios of carbs, proteins, and healthy fats pre- and post workout can go a long way to helping you maintain energy and promote recovery post workout. Be mindful of your eating habits while you are in a training phase and take note of how the food you are eating affects your energy levels. This will help you take control and manipulate another aspect of training to help you get the most from your workouts and recover in the least amount of time.

3. Listen to Your Body

Pain is your body’s way of telling you that there is something either biomechanically or systemically wrong. By the same token, if you are feeling tired prior to a workout, make this workout a recovery workout and take it easy. Save your intense workouts for the days where you are feeling good with a lot of energy. You will find that you will make better gains in the gym with less soreness, feeling better overall after your training sessions.

4. Proper Body Mechanics

Physical Therapist Gray Cook once said, “You can’t place fitness on top of dysfunction.” If you are moving improperly, you should not be loading and placing weights on top of your movement patterns. For example, if you squat with your chest facing toward the ground or your knees cave in toward each other, this is improper form and you should not place weight on top of this movement. Find a qualified trainer, strength coach, or therapist who can assess your movement patterns and then take the time to correct your poor movement patterns so that you are not loading your body improperly, placing increased stress through your joints. You can still work out intensely and become stronger while addressing these issues, but correcting these patterns will best set you up for a long life of injury free training.

5. Have Fun

avoid_injury_by_having_fun_imageMake fitness fun! Struggling through a workout should not be the norm. Mix things up! Change your scenery and go for a hike (a great option on a recovery day), or use different tools. Flipping tires, slamming medicine balls, or hopping, skipping, and jumping are all fun ways to get moving to stay in shape. Workouts do not always have to leave you feeling exhausted and tired. They should leave you feeling awake and refreshed.

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