Injuries can have an emotional, economical, and social impact on your personal life. They often get in the way of performing your normal exercise routine and in worst case situations can be career ending.
My goal here is to show you the current research and provide recommendations on injury prevention. “The easiest way to clean up a mess, is to not make one in the first place” – of course some injuries are inevitable, but why not take the positive and proactive steps to decrease your risk.
Believe it or not, the only parameter that has consistently been shown to decrease the risk of injury is current participation in a strength training program. Not strength itself, but rather the participation in a strength training program. My impressions are that involvement in a strength training program prepares and allows your body to be ready for the load of your daily, recreational, and athletic activities along with keeping your central nervous system on point.
The way you perform your strength training program is also very important, because if exercises are done with bad mechanics – it’s very likely that you will put yourself in positions that strengthen what’s already strong and never address your weaknesses. This is a reason why strength coaches and fitness instructors are extremely important to your health because they can focus on correct mechanics allowing you to improve upon your imbalances and weaknesses.
At the beginning I stated “the easiest way to clean up a mess, is to not make one in the first place,” so let me express what this means in more detail when speaking of injuries. The human body is capable of amazing feats if we give it a chance. Managing and progressing the load placed on your body is very important – which is often why runners get injured, especially novice runners, because too much stress too soon doesn’t give the body the time it needs to recover and adapt. It’s important to find a happy medium when taking on new tasks or trying to reach new goals by applying the overload and SAID principles appropriately.
The overload principle states that your body will adapt to the demands of the workload – so while it is important to overload your body, it also needs to be done in a structured/organized fashion to prevent too much load too soon which could lead to injury. A way to monitor this yourself is by knowing the difference between ‘pain’ and ‘strain’ – pain is stubbing your toe against the end-table, and strain is carrying all the groceries from your car in one trip. Your toe will still be in pain for a while after, however once you put down all the groceries the strain will almost immediately resolve. It’s perfectly fine to work through strain, but working through pain is not ideal. A quick way to determine if you are subjecting your body to ‘strain’ versus ‘pain’ is to stop the exercise/activity, if you are subjecting your body to a healthy amount of strain the discomfort will return to resting levels. If you are causing harm, the pain will persist even once activity is stopped.
The other important principle to apply is the SAID principle which stands for specific adaptations to imposed demands – meaning the closer the exercise is to the task you are trying to work towards and achieve, the larger the carry-over is towards that task. Simply put, if you want to be a better runner, swimming in the pool won’t benefit you as much as running or exercises that focus on hip, trunk, and knee stability as needed during the single leg stance phase of running.
In addition to strength training, put yourself in the best position by staying hydrated with a balance of water and electrolytes, keeping your body nourished with good quality food, and getting adequate rest and recovery while utilizing healthy ways to keep your stress down.
Although the risk of injuries can be significantly reduced, they can never be fully prevented and at times are inevitable.
Stay well and keep moving =)