Strategies for Avoiding Injury at the Gym
Nothing is more frustrating than having to back off of your training regimen due to injury. There are actually two general types of injuries: acute injuries (like spraining an ankle) and overuse injuries (where repetitive movements cause wear and tear). Fortunately, with a little bit of planning and some common sense, you can minimize your risk and avoid lost time at the gym. Here are some strategies for reducing or eliminating your chance of injury while still training at your maximum capacity.
Take the Time to Warm Up Your Muscles
For best results, stretch thoroughly and do light sets to make sure you are completely warmed up. Muscle stiffness refers to the ratio between the change in muscle resistance and the change in muscle length, and is directly related to muscle injury risk. Not only will a proper warm up get the blood circulating, but it will make muscles more limber and thus less likely to get injured.
Work to Your Ability
Many injuries are caused by weak muscles that simply are not ready to handle the specific demands you are placing on them. Before increasing your training load, make sure your body is ready for it. It’s better to go slow than to rush and get injured, as you will only end up having to start from scratch again when you’re ready to get back to training.
Don’t Overdo It
The amount of training you complete in a week’s time is actually one of the best indicators of your potential injury risk. When muscles are fatigued, they do a poor job of protecting connective tissues, thereby increasing the risk of injury to nearby bone, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. Remember, proper recovery time is one of the best way to reduce injury rates, as it gives muscles and connective tissues an opportunity to restore and repair themselves between workouts.
Make Modifications as Needed
If you have been injured in the past, remember that you are much more likely to re-injure that part of your body than someone who has been injury free. One of the best things you can do when coming back from an injury is to re-establish your training load while making the necessary adjustments to your biomechanics to protect that vulnerable area.
Pay Attention to Hydration and Nutrition
Whole foods provide the fuel and building blocks for the body, so eat as clean as you can during heavy training, taking in a wide variety of food types. Vitamins serve as the metabolic catalysts for the body, igniting metabolic processes like muscle building, while minerals provide support for growth. Although supplements are also recommended, remember that they are never a good replacement for a solid diet.
By taking care of yourself throughout the training process, you can help guard against possible injury. Always remember to listen to your body. If something is hurting, take time off and allow your body to properly heal.