By Kris Baldock
It's that time of year again, whether you've started a new year fitness regime or are planning to hit the slopes for that ski holiday, a sudden change in physical activity can lead to injury. A large number of people embark on a new exercise regime, and others increase their activity levels or intensity of an already established routine. As with any new activity or increase in training, there is an increased amount of load being put through your tissues and this can lead to a higher risk of injury.
As prevention is better than cure, could you try incorporating some of the points below which will help reduce your risk of injury.
1. Always include a warm up. Follow a specific warm up that recreates the movements of the exercise your are about to perform, once warm your muscles have a greater tolerance to loading and increased elasticity. This is what we call a dynamic warm up and is very different from the type of static stretching that many of you may be used to. Static stretching has been shown to have no effect on preventing injuries and in some studies has been shown to reduce your muscle ability to produce force, not something you want to do before a workout.
2. If your new to exercise, gradually increase your activity level. Recent research suggests an increase risk of injury is brought about by not only an increase of training load, but also too little training load. This therefore suggests that a sharp increase or excessive variation in training load may increase the risk of injury. Gradually increase and maintain your activity level and if you have time off for illness or injury, do not return to your
previous activity level too quickly.
If you are used to exercise, don't increase your training by more than 10% per week. This could be an increase in the length of time you are exercising, the intensity of your workout or an increase in the weight you are lifting.
3. Take a rest day. Research has shown that if you load tissues above your current tissue capacity everyday, this can lead to a breakdown of collagen tissue. Collagen makes up a large part of our muscles, tendons and ligaments. We need periods of rest to allow our bodies to regenerate and repair. Loading your tissues everyday without rest over time can lead to weakness and structural changes in these tissues, and they can't cope with the demand of load and this can lead to pain.
4. Mix up your training. This changes the type of loading through your tissues.For runners this could be a change in footwear, running pace or mixing road running with trail running. Doing some form of cross training (different type of exercise) e.g. cycling, swimming or gym based exercise can allow you to strengthen different muscle groups whilst helping you maintain your cardiovascular fitness.