The number one priority, no matter what event you are training for, is to be injury free. After all the training you have to put in, the worst thing would be not being able to stay on starting line on the day of the race.
Sport is becoming a huge business and therefore there is a lot of interest in finding ways to ensure that professional athletes can be performing for longest time on high level without getting injured. And because one of the most researched topics in sports medicine is whether or not injuries can be prevented, I tried to put together few proven ways that can help you to prevent them.
Proper stretching & warming up
Surveys on runners have found lack of stretching and not warming up enough to be the most common reasons for suffering an injury. A 2012 study of 2729 runners were divided into either a group that did stretching before running or no-stretching. They measured the number of injuries in each group over time.
There wasn’t much difference between the groups, but there was one very interesting finding. The runners who had previously done stretching but were assigned to the no-stretching group were TWICE as likely to get injured. So if you have got a stretching routine you like, keep doing it.
Know your limits
I find this very important. If you are weekend warrior or professional athlete, each of us have an injury threshold. Your threshold could be at 40 km per week, or 100, but once you exceed it, you get injured. The body needs time to adapt from training changes and jumps in mileage or intensity. I found very safe rule of 10 percent. If you will build your weekly training mileage by no more than 10 percent per week, you will give body good chance to adapt from training changes and jumps in mileage or intensity. Muscles and joints need recovery time so they can recover and handle more training demands. If you rush that process, you could break down rather than build up.
Listen to your body
This is probably the oldest and most widely repeated advice for avoiding injuries, and still the best. Listening to your body is imperative when training for a running race or a triathlon. Symptoms that you might feel during training could either indicate joint stiffness, muscular tightness, muscle soreness or pain from a previous injury. Stiffness, soreness and tightness are normal symptoms encountered during training, especially in a warm-up.
These symptoms should subside after approximately 10 minutes of an easy warm-up. However, sharp pain or severe tightness that persists during the workout could indicate a serious injury.
If you experience severe tightness or pain which persists during the workout, best option you have is to decrease the intensity and the distance. If your symptoms subside, you can return to your normal workout the next day and again, listen to your body. However, if the pain continue, resting for at least 2 days and icing the area of discomfort, compression and elevation would be the best option – RICE.
Differentiate good pain & bad pain
It is very important to learn few facts about pain that you can experience during your training. When you’re exercising, there inevitably comes a time when you will feel a bit of discomfort. When you reach that point you might wonder whether you can keep going and push through it, or if doing so could cause an injury.
Here are the most common signs that you may have injured yourself and you should stop your workout or exercise. I call these signs a bad pain:
- If you feel sharp pain
- There was a sudden onset of pain
- You are still feeling pain even after couple of days
- Pain you are feeling is shooting and accompanied by numbness and/or tingling
- You start to feel pain after hearing sudden noises such as popping, clicking or snapping
- You start to notice a swelling, redness or more heat in muscles or joints.
Sometimes it can be hard to determine whether the pain for example in your hamstring is from soreness due to increasing of intensity or from soft tissue tear or strain. Usually good pain is associated with:
- Location. Bad pain is usually localized whereas good pain is generalized to a region
- Graduation. Good pain has more of gradual build up.
Use cross-training activities to supplement your main sport activity, improve your muscle balance, and keep you injury-free. Swimming, cycling, yoga, Pilates, tennis or rowing will burn a lot of calories and improve your aerobic fitness, but be careful not to aggravate injury-prone areas. If you are injured, let pain be your guide on which activities are okay.