As we get into the swing of the new year, many people will make a resolution to get fit. But if you go about this the wrong way, it can end in an injury that puts you on the sidelines for weeks or even months.
Exercise is amazing for your body and your mind. It boosts mental wellbeing, helps you to manage pain and over the long-term can protect you against injury.
So how can you get back into a fitness regime without hurting yourself? Here are our top tips to minimise your chance of injury.
Start small – even if you used to be a master!
We know from experience that it’s really tempting to go back to doing what you have done in the past. After all, running that fast, lifting those weights or doing Pilates 5 days a week used to be easy!
But whether you’ve been away from exercise because of injury, pregnancy or just that life got on top of you, this is the most common mistake people make.
Over time, your muscles will become less conditioned. If you go back to your old regime, it may be too stressful on your body and lead to an injury.
So don’t just jump in where you were. Instead, go back to the start. Your body will start to remember if you give it time to warm back up to exercise.
Increase your frequency and intensity with time
This goes hand in hand with the first point. It takes time for the body to get back into the swing of things. So give yourself at least a couple of months to get back to where you were before you stopped.
For example, let’s say you used to run 10km 5 times per week. You’ve just had a break for several months due to a new job that took up your time. To get back into it, you might want to pace yourself by doing:
2km gentle jog x 2 for the first week to assess your fitness
5km gentle jog x 2 for 2 weeks
5km run x 3 for 2 weeks
7.5km run x 3 for 2 weeks
7.5km run x 4 for 2 weeks
10km run x 3 for 2 weeks
If you’re feeling good and have had no injuries or flare-ups, then progress back to your 5 x 10km runs.
As you can see, this progression takes 10-12 weeks to get back to your original program. It may take longer if you’ve been off exercise for a longer period of time or had a significant injury. But it will pay off in the long run if you pace yourself!
Make sure you’re getting good nutrition and plenty of sleep
Exercise recovery starts from the moment you stop exercising. There are a lot of factors that contribute to recovery, but nutrition and sleep are two of the most important. Our bodies use nutrients to heal and grow muscles, and most of this healing takes place as we sleep.
For nutrition, our nutritionist buddy Samantha Gemmell recommends eating plenty of wholefoods for a good mix of protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support recovery.
When it comes to sleep, Sam says that quality is just as important as quantity. Make sure that your room is completely dark, avoid caffeine after 3pm and minimise your screen time for 30 minutes before bedtime.
Do some gentle stretches after your workout
Exercise is great for your body, but it can lead to muscle tension. Muscle tension can put you at risk of injury. So how do you minimise that risk? One way is to stretch out after a workout.
This doesn’t have to be anything too extensive. If you’ve gone for a run, do some gentle stretching of your legs and hips. If it’s upper body day at the gym, stretch out your shoulders and upper back. 1-2 minutes of stretching after each workout can add up!
Give your body some TLC
Sometimes stretching isn’t enough, and your muscles need a little extra TLC. Many people will get a relaxation massage or remedial massage, but this only addresses one aspect of the muscle tension.
That’s where myotherapy comes in. Myotherapy incorporates massage with other techniques such as dry cupping, needling, trigger point therapy and taping. This combination can be helpful for not only treating exercise-related injury but also preventing it.
Your myotherapist can also assess your muscles and joints to see if any are at significant risk of injury and prescribe exercises to strengthen those areas.
Want to show your body that TLC and reduce your risk of injury? Book in with one of our friendly myotherapists here.
Mel is a Myotherapist based in Ferntree Gully.