New Year’s resolutions to become more active are great. I hope everyone who made a resolution to be fit is starting to see a difference. That said, if someone has been pretty sedentary, and he or she jumps into a new fitness program too quickly, overuse injuries can occur. Understanding how to pace yourself while getting fit is key.
Overuse injuries and common causes
Overuse injuries can be any type of muscle or joint injury like bursitis, tendonitis, or stress fractures that are caused by repetitive trauma. Overuse injuries are usually caused by:
- Biting off more than you can chew. Most of us have seen reality programs where morbidly obese people lose exorbitant amounts of weight and/or become superior athletes in a very short amount of time. These programs can be very inspirational, which is great, but you need to take these transformations with a grain of salt. When you take on too much physical activity too quickly, you can hurt yourself. Pushing too hard too soon or simply doing too much of one type of physical activity can strain your body and lead to an overuse injury.
- Bad form. Compensating for muscular weakness or performing an exercise improperly due to poor/inadequate training can wreak havoc on your body. For example, using momentum while strength training or swinging a golf club with a hitch may overload certain muscles and cause overuse injuries.
Avoiding overuse injuries
The fear of overuse injuries should not prevent you from exercising. Done sensibly, exercise will add many happy and healthy years to your life. Here are some commonsense ways you can avoid overuse injuries:
- Get a physical BEFORE you start exercising. I have run, cycled, and swam for years, and I still get checked out before starting new endeavors. You may have muscular imbalances or medical conditions that can make you predisposed to developing an overuse injury.
- Consider using a personal trainer. Using the correct technique is crucial to preventing overuse injuries. You may have muscular imbalances you need to correct due to shortfalls in flexibility and strength from inactivity or a previous injury. A good, certified personal trainer can help you begin a new, safe exercise regimen. If you have weak hips, for example, your trainer can show you exercises to address the problem and prevent knee pain.
- Use new/well-maintained shoes. When your shoes wear down, you don’t get the proper support, and this can contribute to overuse injuries. Runners should replace their shoes every 300-500 miles. I keep mine in their boxes and log the mileage on the outside to keep an accurate “running tally” of the mileage accumulated. Additionally, don’t wear your fitness shoes when you aren’t exercising. You wear them out more quickly this way.
- Consider the tortoise and the hare. Easing into your new fitness routine/training will help you continue to stay active for years to come. Don’t try to do too much too soon, and definitely don’t try to do an entire week’s worth of exercise during a two-day weekend. Beginners should shoot for at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity over the course of a week.
- You aren’t in high school anymore. As we age, warming up, cooling down, and stretching afterwards become more important. Your body isn’t the same as it was “back in the day.” A dynamic stretching warm-up of 5 to 10 minutes and a static stretching routine for 5 to 10 minutes at the end of the hour will do wonders for avoiding injuries. Additionally, you may not be able to do the same activities that you did years ago. Consider ways to modify activities to fit your present fitness level.
- Gradually increase your activity level. When changing your activity level or the amount of weight you’re using while strength training, keep it gradual — such as increases of no more than 10 percent each week until you reach your new goal.
- Try a tri. Done correctly, triathlon training is a perfect balance of running, swimming, cycling, and core strength. What a perfect balance to make you really fit and avoid overuse injuries. Plus, triathlons are a blast! If you aren’t game for actually doing a triathlon, following a triathlon training program will give you a nice balance of different forms of cardio, strength, and flexibility.
It’s great to set new fitness goals; don’t let overuse injuries sideline you. To learn more, schedule a free assessment at an Athletico near you.
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That makes sense that cooling down and warming up becomes more and more important as you get older. I have noticed that it’s harder to get up and get going right away than it was when I was younger. I should make sure that if I start running seriously, I warm up and then cool down properly after I run.