By Myron Mielke
Sports-related injuries might conjure up visions of two mammoth-sized football players colliding during a tackle or a buddy spraining an ankle during a pickup game of basketball in your neighborhood. Although these are prime examples of injuries during sports, many injuries occur from overwork or improper technique while exercising. Nothing can bring your fitness progress to a screeching halt faster than an injury. Sports-related injuries are common in the fitness world. Learning how to treat them and prevent them is a very important part of anyone’s training routine.
Sustaining a sports-related injury in the fitness world is almost inevitable. The tendency to push yourself past normal limits might open up the door to some unnecessary aches and pains. Some injuries are more of a nuisance and will allow you to continue training with only a little discomfort for a day or two. Other injuries, which are more substantial, might sideline you and prevent you from performing the normal exercise routine you’ve established. Let’s take a look at a few of the common injuries that hinder our wonderful world of exercising.
Weightlifting is a tremendous way to strengthen and reshape your body. It's also a tremendous way to damage your shoulder joints if you're not careful. Warming up properly, using strict form, avoiding one-rep maxes and eliminating dangerous exercises can prevent most shoulder injuries.
Warming up properly for shoulder or chest exercises is imperative. Lying down on a bench and knocking out a few reps with a heavy weight without doing any lighter sets first is an injury waiting to occur. Do one or two sets with a very light weight for 10 to 12 reps and then do another set with medium weight before using any heavy weights. It's also a good idea to some arm circles and light stretches in between warmup sets to help loosen the joints.
One exercise that seems to be performed frequently is the barbell press behind the neck. Arnold did this exercise, but many experts agree these days that it puts the shoulders in an unnatural position and could lead to an injury. Instead of lowering the barbell from an overhead position to touch the base of the neck, lower it to the front just under your chin. It will be more comfortable and once you're adjusted to the new exercise, you will actually be able to lift heavier poundages too. If, however, you insist on the press behind the neck, it is recommended that you only lower it as far as the top of your ears.
Another invaluable tip for your shoulders is to strengthen your rotator cuffs before you ever have an injury. Add a couple light exercises for your rotators after your chest workout once or twice a week. If you’re a young guy and just starting out, this is one tip you do not want to ignore. If you do ignore it, a few years from now you’ll remember this article and wish you had followed this advice. Trust me on this.
Have you ever noticed how many pages that running magazines devote to injury prevention? It seems there’s always a blurb on the front cover telling us how we can run injury-free. Running and injuries seem to go hand in hand (or should I say foot in foot). Running in itself is a very jarring exercise and the constant pounding on the pavement causes stress on our frames. Sore knees, legs, feet and even lower backs are common areas that are susceptible to injuries during running. Measures can be taken to prevent and avoid these injuries.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent running injuries is to invest in a good pair of running shoes. Having the correct support for your body and the type of stride can help save you from needless aches and pains. Running shoes come in many varieties and in several categories. Getting into the nuts and bolts of shoe selection could take up the entire article. I’ll advise you to go to www.runnersworld.com. They have excellent resources on how to select the shoe that’s right for you.
Overdoing running is another cause of many injuries. It's all too common for the ex-high school jock to decide it's time to start running again. That inspiration usually occurs around Olympics time or a class reunion. That same high school jock might have weighed 40 pounds less while attending high school and trying to go out and run four miles like he did 15 to 20 years ago might be a rude awakening. The joints quickly have a way of telling you to ease up. It's called pain. Take it easy at first. Slowly jog for two minutes or one-quarter of a mile. Walk for two minutes. Jog another quarter mile. Walk. Jog. Spend only 15 minutes the first three times you go out. Add five minutes per week until you reach 30 minutes. Instead of running every day, try running every other day to give your body a rest.
To prevent foot injuries during running, it's a good idea to warm up well if you run in the morning. Getting out of bed and immediately pounding your feet on the pavement is very traumatic on your arches. Try to walk for at least one-half mile before you begin to run. If you begin to have heel pain while running in the morning, it would be a good idea to rest a few days and then try running at night. Since you've been on your feet during the day, your arches have been sufficiently warmed up and running later in the day might make it more comfortable. You also get to get off your feet during the entire night while you sleep!
For more information on injury-free running, visit the web site www.jeffgalloway.com. This site has a lot of sound training advice.
Pulls and strains
Being able to distinguish between normal soreness from a hard workout and real pain from a more substantial injury, unfortunately is learned from experience. If you added a new leg exercise yesterday and it was comfortable while you were performing it, but the next day you can't squat down to tie your shoes, you probably are just sore from the overload of the workout. If you are performing the exercise, and the muscle feels tight and hurts or you feel a "pop," then you need to immediately stop and rest up. Apply ice to the strain several times a day. If after a few days, it doesn't feel better you might want to see your doctor to make sure things are okay. It's not very common to tear a muscle, but it's a good idea to be safe to check with your family doctor, especially if there's any bruising in the area
By the way, a great way to apply ice to an injured area is to freeze water in a Styrofoam cup. You can peel back the edges so the ice protrudes. The Styrofoam portion can be held in comfort while you apply the ice to the injured area in a rolling massage pattern. Do this for about five minutes two to three times per day. Return the unused portion of the ice cup back in the freezer to use again.
Playing it smart
Remember the old adage "Rome wasn't built in a day." Achieving your fitness goals takes time. Even though many marketing campaigns claim you can do it in six weeks, it probably won't happen that quickly. Be patient. Stay consistent and challenge yourself, but don't overdo it. "No pain, no gain" doesn't mean to hurt or torture yourself to the point of injury. A better saying, although not nearly as catchy, would be "temporary and mild discomfort will lead me quickly to a path of progress." Well, now that I think about it, that's not catchy at all, but you get the idea. Until next time, stay healthy and train safely!