Anytime you begin or maintain a fitness regimen, injuries are always a possibility. Lots of things can increase your risk, being out of shape, being overweight and just plain bad luck can all play a part. I’ve been very fortunate in my 46 years and have experienced very few injuries. However, with the injuries I have experienced one common culprit exists. That culprit is me!
You may say what do you mean “me”? All the injuries I’ve experienced can be traced back to training errors I made. Below are 5 training errors you can avoid and decrease your risk for injury.
1. Take It Slow
Getting fit and staying fit is a slow gradual process that will take the rest of your life. Start slowly and build slowly. In 1999 I ran my first marathon. I signed up for the Memphis marathon in November; the only problem was the marathon was December 10th. I trained for 3 weeks to run 26.2 miles, not smart and as a result I developed plantar fasciitis and iliotibial band syndrome. It took almost 6 months to get right. However, I learned from that experience and slowly trained for my next marathon over a period of 6 months. I slowly built my base mileage and did everything it takes to prepare my feet, legs, body and mind for 26.2 miles. I completed my second marathon in 3:32 with zero injuries. You don’t get in shape fast, you don’t get strong fast, and you don’t lose weight fast. Whether preparing for a half marathon or improving strength in the weight room training is a slow gradual process.
2. Improve Your Flexibility
Flexibility is one of your most important friends as you age. After years of running and working at a desk 6-8 hours per day I lost a lot of flexibility. From 1999 to 2005 I ran 7 marathons and more half marathons that I can count. However, I never bothered to stretch. As a result my low back began to kill me. I remember going Christmas shopping with my wife and I would have to find a place to sit down because standing caused my back to hurt. I was 34 years old and I moved and acted like a 90 year old man. After doing a little research I learned all the running and sitting had caused my hamstrings and hip flexors to shorten causing chronic low back pain. Eight weeks of consistent stretching eliminated my back pain and I’ve been stretching every day since.
3. Strong Muscles Protect Joints
In 1994 I enrolled in Athletic Training 101 as a part of my degree program. I’ll never forget the first day of class our instructor said the most important part of injury prevention is ONE thing. Strong muscles protect joints not ligaments. Stronger muscles mean stronger joints and fewer injuries. Strength training is essential to maintaining a healthy skeletal system. In addition, as we age strength is our most important ally and ultimately determines our independence. If you don’t strength train the time to start is now.
4. It Bears Repeating Start Slow
While we’re talking about the importance of strength training, Boot Camp is 85% strength training which puts considerable stress on the muscles and joints. While this is good stress and ultimately leads to a strong healthy skeletal system it can increase your risk for injury. However, the key to preventing injury is starting at a light/moderate weight and keeping the reps low. Over the course of weeks and months slowly increase the weight and reps as your body adapts and gets stronger. Increase too fast and injury can occur.
5. Technique Requires Flexibility & Core Strength
The last thing that increases risk for injury is correct technique which requires flexibility and core strength. I’ve watched thousands of people run and lift weights and the number one thing I’ve learned is technique can be an imperfect science. It would be great if everyone had great flexibility and perfect movement patterns but the truth of the matter most people don’t. Especially the people who need to start an exercise program. The key to preventing injuries is to move in a range of motion that’s comfortable for you right now. If that means you’re your squat barely produces a bend at the knee for now so be it. Work on your flexibility and do lots of chair sits until your flexibility comes around. Never try to force yourself into a range of motion your body’s not ready to complete. In the two years Expect Results Fitness has been open I’ve seen 50+ individuals go from being poor movers to good movers in 4-6 months. The real key is to keep moving. In addition, it’s important to build a strong core and learn to apply it. A strong core and learning to engage that core prevents lower back injuries.
Don’t Let Injuries Kill Your Motivation!
I’ve watched many a person crash and burn in their quest for fitness due to experiencing an injury. Not all injuries can be prevented but most can if you take it slow and think of your fitness journey as a marathon not a sprint. Like the turtle slow and steady finishes what you start.