Exercise injuries are incredibly common, but they’re largely avoidable. By listening to your body and respecting your needs, you can avoid exercise-related accidents.
1. If you’re in serious pain, don’t force yourself to work out anyway. Muscling through will do much more harm than good.
2. Take at least one day off from exercise per week. This is preventive. If you give your muscles one day of complete rest to repair and rebuild, you’ll reduce the risk of injury. For some people, this may simply mean targeting different muscle groups rather than taking a day off.
3. Stretch before and after exercise. Imagine a frozen rubber band – it would snap if you pulled it, right? Now imagine a warm rubber band – it can stretch much farther and is much more flexible. Your muscles are the same. You need to warm up and stretch them out before you dive into vigorous exercise.
4. Complement high-impact activities with alignment-based exercises. Yoga balances running, swimming, biking, and other vigorous forms of exercise. It releases muscle and fascia tension so you can train harder and get stronger without injuring yourself. Pilates, dance, barre, and other alignment-based activities can also help strengthen your core, improve your form, and allow your body to move safely.
5. Maintain bone health through diet. By consuming plenty of calcium from green vegetables, small fish (like sardines), and dairy – if your body can handle it – you’ll maintain strong bones and protect yourself from injury. Weight-bearing activities, such as weight lifting, running, and gymnastics, also help promote bone density and slow bone loss.
6. Fuel properly. Your body needs the right fuel to function. Protein, carbs, and fat are the building blocks that make up every cell, bone, and muscle in your body and give you the energy to move your body. Especially if you work out vigorously, you need to maintain a proper diet with adequate calories and nutrients to stay strong and reduce the risk of injury.
7. Reduce inflammation. Workouts can cause inflammation, but you can help reduce this effect by including a variety of anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, like turmeric, berries, salmon, and dark, leafy greens. For a non-dietary approach, try taking an Epsom salt bath, which is anti-inflammatory and used to relieve muscle tension and soreness.
8. Stay focused. Many of us like to do several things at once, but when it comes to exercise, staying focused can help you move safely and reduce the risk of injury. When you’re distracted, you’re more likely to get injured as you won’t have your full attention on the exercise you’re doing.
9. If you’re in chronic pain, get it checked out sooner rather than later. If you’ve been experiencing low-grade pain for a while but have brushed it off as nothing, have it checked out just to be sure. Waiting may put you at risk for a more serious injury.
10. Know your body. You know your body better than anyone, so if something doesn’t seem right to you, take a modification that fits your needs. It’s easy to sometimes feel pressure to do what those around you are doing, especially when you’re working out in a group setting. Find the pace that works for you and individualize your workout to your needs – sometimes that’s a long child’s pose, sometimes it’s running an extra mile. We change daily, so be patient and check in with yourself often.