Stay Safe While You Sweat: Tips For Injury Prevention in Exercise
Many of us turn to exercise to improve our physical health and combat mental health challenges. Especially since we've been summoned to work from home or have new and improved ways of going to work. However, juggling this "new normal" lifestyle along with adding new gym routines has its own set of challenges. The benefits of exercise typically only follow with a proper rest and recovery period, so if you are already burnt out or overworked it can become difficult for your body to recover properly from any other form of stress, including exercise.
This doesn't mean exercise should be avoided, however, it is important to be aware of how we can prevent injury or illness from happening and when we need to take time to rest and recover.
1. Understanding the Basics of Exercise
Firstly, it's important to understand that exercising is a form of stress on the body. There is a "sweet spot" when it comes to exercising. When you are able to progress and improve your exercise performance without distress; you are hitting that sweet spot. Injury or illness often happens when we start excising too much too quickly, without proper rest. It's important to start slow and give your body time to adapt to a new routine and progressively add on as you go. Speaking with your doctor before starting to exercise and discussing your fitness goals with a personal trainer is the best way to begin a successful exercise journey.
2. Eating the Right Foods
Eating the right amounts and sources of food is very important, not only for your day-to-day activities but also for exercise. A good balance between carbohydrates, protein, and fats, as well as fruit and vegetables, are crucial for optimal exercise performance and muscle recovery. A good example of a complete meal, pre or post-workout, could be a half plate of roasted vegetables with a quarter plate of cooked quinoa with pumpkin, another quarter plate of roasted chicken or tofu topped with sesame seeds.
3. Getting Enough Sleep
Having a regular sleeping schedule will also affect your performance and recovery from physical activity. If you are waking up feeling energized, chances are you are getting at least 7-8 hours of good sleep. This is optimal for exercise performance and good recovery. If you are getting below 6 hours of sleep or waking up feeling low in energy, it would be best to stick with light or no exercise that following day. Your body could already be in distress in response to a lack of sleep, so adding exercise on top could reinforce the risk of injury or illness.
4. Rest, Recover, and Restore
The rest, recovery, and restore phase typically happens before, during, and after exercise. This phase consists of having a proper warm-up, taking the appropriate amounts of rest between sets, and stretching pre and post-training. Rest and recovery also means giving your body accurate amounts of rest and therapy before and after workouts. In other words, listen to your body before putting it under stress. The line between fatigue and laziness can be blurred when we don't take the time to listen (which is one of the main causes of injury in the gym). Therapy is another important factor to consider when you are starting your exercise journey, and it can look different for everyone. This includes but is not limited to; therapeutic massages, getting a physiotherapist, going to an osteopath, seeing a dietician or nutritionist, getting a personal trainer and/or simply using a foam roller at home.
To sum up, we don't have to tell you that injuries and illnesses are terribly unpleasant. And sometimes it is inevitable for injury or illness to happen. However, taking the right precautions can protect you from having to miss out on a healthy exercise routine. Simple things, like taking the time to properly stretch before and after a workout, taking time to listen to your body, and proper rest between sets can go a long way in preventing injury and illness.
B.Sc Nutrition, Personal Training Specialist, Certified Life & Wellness Coach