After I was cleared to exercise after Tessa was born, I was super motivated to get back in shape and have my body return to its previous state. I got on a good schedule where I could exercise with the kids in a group with other women and then joined an awesome gym with great child care (Treehouse Athletic Club in Draper, Utah). I was feeling good, running well and getting my mile time down when…I hurt my knee. Then right when it was feeling better, I pulled my Achilles tendon pretty bad when we were in Texas. So I’m no stranger to injury and while the process is longer, I’m still motivated to become physically stronger. One of my biggest things I need to remember is to stretch well after and really dedicate the time to cool down. Here are some more solid tips to prevent injuries:
How to Prevent Injury as an Athlete
By: Maurine Anderson
Your risk of injury only increases the more physically active you are, so if you are an athlete, it’s vitally important to do what you can to prevent injury. Injuries can take months or even years to heal, after all, and some injuries will put athletes out of commission for good. An injury could even put you at risk for painkiller addiction. As this article points out, it’s a lot more common than you might think.
How, then, can you reduce your chances of injury in your everyday physical activity? Here are some vital tips on how you can prevent injury as an athlete.
Wear protective gear.
This goes without saying, but it’s worth the extra reminder. Whenever engaging in any sport that involves wearing protective gear such as a mouthguard, helmet, or shoulder pads, be sure you are wearing that protective gear properly. Risk of injury is especially high in contact sports, and your protective gear can be what makes the difference in how serious an injury is.
Take time off.
Rests days aren’t only for the injured—they are for anyone who engages in regular physical activity. Schedule your rest days and rest periods just like you would workout days and training days. Plan to take at least one rest day per week and at least one month off of training per year to help your body recover properly from physical exertion.
Warm up before every workout.
Many athletes do not warm up adequately before engaging in heavy physical activity. Your warm up should consist of light exercises that mimic what you will be doing in your workout. If you are preparing to go on a long run, for example, you should warm up by doing a very light jog. If you are preparing for a synergistic workout that involves a lot of jumping, you could warm up by doing jumping jacks. Gradually increase your intensity throughout your warm up until your heart rate is up and you feel mentally prepared for your workout. Be sure to incorporate some ballistic stretching as well towards the end of your warm up, once your muscles are looser. You should plan to warm up for about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the intensity of your workout.
Don’t do static stretching before a workout.
On a related note, be sure that you do not do any static stretching before a workout. Doing this can will only increase your risk of injury but also harm your exercise routine and decrease strength. Be sure that any stretching you do before your workout is ballistic stretching and that it is done towards the end of your warm up when your muscles are warm.
Stretch after every workout.
It’s important after every workout to stretch and lengthen those muscles that you’ve been engaging. You should also gently stretch those muscles that feel tight after a workout, whether you engaged them or not. You could write an entire blog post alone on proper stretching technique, but in general, you should hold each stretch you do for 25 to 30 seconds, and stretch for a total of about ten minutes after your workout.
Eat a healthy, well balanced diet.
This is another tip you could write an entire blog post—even a book—about, but in general, be sure to eat a healthy and well balanced diet that is rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. Be sure to consult a specialist in sports nutritionist as well about taking in enough calories and nutrients per day to fuel your workouts and training. The right nutrition will promote better muscle recovery and fuel your body with the nutrients it loses during heavy physical exertion.
Eat properly before and after your workout.
The foods you eat before and after your workouts also matter. Before a workout, eat a snack that contains carbohydrates, such as fruit or whole grain toast. Foods that are also rich in fiber are great because they help control carbohydrate release throughout the course of your workout. Bananas are also great because they contain potassium, which helps maintain muscle and nerve function. Following your workout, eat a snack that is rich in both carbs and protein in the 30 to 60 minute time frame after your workout.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Drinking plenty of water is also important for helping prevent injury, as it helps keep your muscles lubricated. Plus, it reduces your risk of incurring heat related illness. Aim to 16 to 20 ounces of water at least four hours before physical activity, and then 8 to 10 ounces about 10 minutes before exercise. For longer and more intense workouts, you should consider drinking a healthy sports drink is rich in electrolytes and carbohydrates to sustain energy levels.