The weather is getting better at the moment, which means there are plenty of outdoor fitness events to take part in. Some people like unique, fun events like AcroYoga or the infamous Color Run. Others (like me) prefer challenging events, such as marathons and endurance challenges.
It doesn’t matter where you fall on that scale, every physical activity you put your body through will give you endless benefits – both physical AND mental! Even training for the event is going to keep you disciplined and in good shape. The problems come when you’re training for a tough event, one that is going to push your limits. When training for these, especially with a busy lifestyle, it’s easy to start picking up injuries. This is where you can benefit from my past mistakes, by letting me show you how to avoid a few of the most common problems!
Muscle Pulls & Strains
Pulls & strains can happen if you place a muscle under sudden strain when it’s unprepared. How do you prepare it? By warming up and stretching, so there is a good supply of blood and your muscle fibers are warm and flexible. If you do happen to get a pull or strain, rest the muscle until it’s recovered. Trying to make a quick comeback is only going to send you back to the injured list.
A sprain happens when a joint moves in a direction that it shouldn’t be moving in. This damages the ligaments and causes swelling. In some cases, it even causes a small tear. Either way, your joint is going to be swollen, stiff and painful. It needs to be treated using the RICE procedure and looked after. Ease back into exercise when recovered.
To avoid them in the first place, make sure you warm up – and try not to let your joints bend in ways they aren’t designed to! Some people have vulnerabilities to this because of weak joints, or because training is stressing one area of the body more than others. You can use strength and stability exercises to strengthen the joint and prevent this. I suffered from sprains in my early fight career, especially when working throws & sweeps. Doing stability work for my ankles and knees for a few weeks helped a lot with my future injury resistance.
Shin splints usually affect runners but can affect other athletes too, causing stress and damage to your shin bone and the surrounding muscles & tendons. I suffered with these when I first started Thai boxing. It’s painful and can put you off training entirely, plus it will limit your performance. Again the RICE procedure works for treatment, but what about avoiding it altogether?
Your best bet is to use good fitting footwear with strong support. Extra insoles to absorb the impact of running can help a lot too. Splints also happen if you increase training intensity suddenly – so build up slowly and gradually. Running on soft surfaces can be a good idea too, again it’s less impact. Strengthening your calves and your core both help to maintain good running form and ease the stress on your lower legs. Finally, make sure to always stretch and look after your calves and Achilles tendons in particular. These areas can play a big part in shin splints!
Lower Back Injuries
There are a lot of people suffering from lower back issues. When I was young, I didn’t understand how so many older family members could have back issues. I thought they were just moaning or trying to get out of work. Now that I’m older, I know how easily the lower back can be damaged. For me, the problems only happened sometimes if I was lifting with bad form – putting my back under stress instead of using my legs. A lot of the time, nothing happened. Now that I’m in my 30’s though, I can sometimes get a twinge just tying my shoelace!
Back problems are difficult to deal with and they can greatly impact your training and your life. The best way to avoid it is to use good form at all times, always be conscious of how you’re moving and bending – even when not training.