We exercise for a myriad of reasons. Some of these include the reduction of body fat, weight management, mental health, to feel better or just for the overall positive health benefits. However, there are certain injury prevention protocols that should be followed. The last thing any of us wants is prolonged downtime in the form of a preventable injury.
Here are a few protocols to follow.
Always warm up prior to any exercise activity. Warming up is important as it prepares the body and the mind for physical exertion. Warming up the body increases circulation, helps ligaments, tendons and muscles loosen up and slowly moves you into the mindset of “Okay now it's time to work out”.
I always suggest light stretching immediately after the warm-up with more intense stretching at the end of a good workout. Again it is important to get the body ready for exercise. Light stretching at the outset does this. Include stretches for the entire body with more emphasis on injury prone areas such as the hamstrings, groin area and the lower back. At the end of each workout, when your muscles are warmer and more pliable, you can move into deeper stretching, while focusing on lengthening by holding stretches longer.
It's important to know the difference between muscles soreness, a minor twinge or strain and a more serious injury. Typical muscle soreness is normal and a condition you really want to work through. You do this by warming up, light stretching and participating in your workout with maybe light modifications to sore muscle groups.
If you feel a minor twinge or strain during your workout or during physical activity know that this is a common occurrence. Almost everyone strains or pulls a muscle or one time or another. Typically, you will feel a sharp pain followed by a dull ache. When this happens stop whatever you are doing and end your workout for the day. Use the PRICE acronym; prevention, rest, ice, compression, elevation are the typical protocol for most minor strains or pulls. Here is the PRICE protocol.
Prevention: Protect an injury from further damage. Do not put excess strain on the injured area until the pain is completely gone.
Rest: Give an injury time to heal. This is very important as many people try to return to their normal routine before the injury has healed properly and end up reinjuring the area, which in turn creates longer downtime.
Ice: Use ice (ice packs) to reduce the pain and inflammation for the first 3 to 5 days after an injury. A top orthopedist once told me if every one of his patients would ice an injury he would be out of business.
Compression: Wrap the injured area if need be to reduce swelling.
Elevation: Elevate the injury above the heart to reduce the flow of blood to the injured area and reduce the swelling as well.
A more serious injury such as a sharp, excruciating snap or pop with continued, localized pain requires greater attention. Injuries like a pulled groin muscle, bad ankle sprain or severe tendinitis need to be addressed immediately. Stop all exercise that affects an injured area and see a qualified orthopedist or doctor immediately. A qualified medical professional can advise you on the extent of the injury and the proper protocol to follow as well as your exercise guidelines.
Stay away from weekend warrior mania! I know it's a blast to go out with the buddies on the weekends for that pickup game of hoops, flag football, tennis or mountain biking. It feels great to go back in time and participate in sporting activities you did in your youth. You just have to remember your current age and fitness condition and don't try to turn back the clock in one day. There is nothing wrong with participating in sports; however, as you get older it becomes even more important to warm up properly and to do some light stretching before any sport or exercise activity. Injuries can and do happen so you don't need to encourage them.
Lastly, make sure you always cool down after any exercise session or sporting event. Rehydrate and give your body some recuperation time. Improper cool down can result in greater lactic acid build up and onset muscle soreness. Dehydration and insufficient rest saps you of needed energy.
So go out and have fun. Be active, but also be smart about it.
By Michael George
Michael George is an internationally recognized author, lifestyle coach and fitness expert transforming the health and fitness field with his innovative training philosophies and motivational voice.