In the past few years, I’ve seen a big influx of people taking their health more seriously, and it’s been very encouraging! Everywhere I go, I see people jogging, lifting weights, doing Crossfit or Yoga, and paying more attention to what they eat. After years of being told that we’re getting too fat and too weak, I say, it’s about time!
If you’re one of those people who has made health and fitness a priority in your life, you have my sincere respect and admiration! I know it’s not fun getting up early to go for a run, or giving up an extra hour after work to go to the gym, but in the long run, you’ll be far better off. However, I want you to be practical about what you’re doing.
With the increase in people exercising regularly has come a new problem that doctors and exercise science professionals have been monitoring closely – chronic injury.
Sprained ankles, torn tendons, severe swelling, loss of blood flow – professionals have seen these popping up at an alarming rate, to the point that many doctors and professionals have begun recommending that people exercise less.
Regardless of how much you work out, or how often, injuries can happen. If you’re ever in any sort of chronic pain, or fatigue, that just won’t go away no matter what you do, you need to seek professional medical care.
However, the best type of medicine is prevention, so to help you continue to make progress, while avoiding a serious injury, read ahead for the most common causes of injuries that result from exercising.
Improper Warm Ups
If you’re just starting to exercise, the idea might seem a little crazy – exercising, before I exercise? I was the same way when I started, but believe me, I’ve learned the hard way that you absolutely need to warm up before you start your main workout.
Think about it like this – when your body is in its normal state, your muscles are compact and tight, your blood is flowing regularly, and the oxygen getting into your lungs is enough to support ‘normal’ activity, like walking or sitting. What your body isn’t prepared to do is suddenly jump into a dead sprint, if you haven’t given it time to adjust. It would be like trying to stretch sandpaper.
To prevent this, take at least five to ten minutes to warm up, before you workout. Depending on what you’re doing, I’d recommend five minutes of a dynamic warm up routine (movements that require explosive, controlled movement), followed by five minutes of static stretching. Combining these two types will get your blood flowing, your lungs prepared to work at an increased rate, and get your muscles warm and flexible.
This is huge amongst newcomers, but it can strike even the most seasoned athletes, if we’re not careful. By overtraining, I’m referring to instances where you either try to do too much in too short a period of time, or don’t incrementally increase the degree that you’re pushing past your limits.
Examples of overtraining might include sprinting too fast, for too far, or throwing too much weight on the bar for a bench press.
There are two primary ways to prevent overtraining, and you need to implement them at all times:
1. Gradually Increase your Workload
When you’ve grown comfortable with your routine, and you’re ready to increase your workload, do so gradually. A good rule of thumb is to go no more than 10% past where you’ve grown comfortable.
If you can bench 200 lbs., go for no more than 220 next time. If you’ve been running 2 miles, don’t increase by more than a quarter mile. People tend to push themselves far more than what they’re ready for – 90% of the time, it only leads to injury.
2. Limit Your High Intensity Sessions
High Intensity Training, or HITT, has been all the rage the past few years. It essentially crams a lot of work (and theoretically, a lot of results) into a very short period of time. Most HITT workouts last no more than 20 minutes, but it’s an aggressive, exhausting 20 minutes.
I love HITT workouts, but they are dangerous. They put a severe strain on your body, and push you to your absolute limits. I don’t do more than two HITT workouts a week, and never back-to-back, and neither should you.
Lack of Proper Rest
I think there’s just something about human beings that we have just set our hearts on doing the exact opposite of what doctors tell us to do. Nowhere is this more apparent than our sleep habits. Doctors recommend at least seven to eight hours a night – most people I know cap out around five to six.
Here’s the thing: if you’re working out regularly, especially if you’re new to regular exercise, you have to let your body rest. Exhausted bodies are far more prone to injury, and it’s an often undiagnosed contributor to serious, chronic injuries.
Even if you think you’re a “He-Man” who never gets hurt, consider this: rest is essential to fitness progress.Without proper rest, your muscles don’t have time to reset, and your body doesn’t have time to break down vitamins and nutrients to fuel your next workout.
The result can be that you progress very slowly, if at all, and you will plateau much more quickly.