After putting it off for too long, you commit to “get fit”. You go to CrossFit, start training for to a Spartan Race, join a boot camp class, etc.—only to find yourself injured shortly down the road or even the minute you start working out.
I also see this scenario all the time with people using a sport (ex: basketball, LAX, soccer, running, etc.) of choice to get in shape vs getting in proper shape to play the game. Classic fail usually.
I also see the “reoccurring injured” person often. The person that workouts hard for (example) 3 months, then gets hurt. They take a month or two off and go right back to doing the exact same workouts they did before only to repeat this process over and over again.
Then what happens? All of the sudden your fitness goals go back on the shelf and you are left to deal with the pain. Whether your injury occurs right off the bat or after years of regular workouts the result is always the same. It is discouraging, painful and downright depressing.
And since studies suggest that up to 38% of all exercisers suffer from an injury each year and 80% of runners will get an injury, it is a subject worth exploring.
Let me point out, I am talking Non-Contact based injuries. I am talking about when you keep going through minor aches and pains until something snaps, pops or just hurts so much you have to stop working out.
Contact injuries are from blunt trauma! A person rolls into your knees and you tear your ACL. You get in a car accident and hurt your back. Things like that are contact injuries.
The old “Once I get going the pain goes away” scenario is you ignoring the body’s check engine light. Not a good habit to be in.
Top 3 Workout Injuries
The following three ailments occur commonly among active people. Let’s explore the cause of each and then detail your very own injury prevention plan—because let’s face it, you simply don’t have time to spend nursing and injury (and losing all that progress you had made).
- Strain / Pulled Muscle: occurs when a tendon (connects muscle to bone) or muscle is stretched or torn. If you suffer from a strain you will feel pain and swelling in the muscle belly, or loss of function if the strain occurred in a tendon. Many strains occur as the result of an improper warm-up and insufficient stretching.
- Sprain: occurs when a ligament (connects bone to bone) is stretched or torn. While this can happen to any ligament in your body, the most common placements of sprains are in the ankle, wrist, and knee. Often this injury will happen suddenly as the ligament is stretched beyond its normal limit, usually during a fall or other acute trauma.
- Low Back Pain: it is said that 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives—and the list of causes is as diverse as the sufferers themselves. Here are the main reasons for workout related back pain:
- Improper form: Similar to bad posture, using improper form while performing weight-bearing exercises will leave your back sore and aching. The good news is that once your form is corrected this pain should subside after a healing period.
- Weak muscles: If you have a desk job then chances are your deep back muscles are inactive and unconditioned. When you start an exercise program but fail to properly strengthen these muscles, the result is often an aching back.
- Strained muscles: Not to pick on that desk job, but another result of sitting all day is tight back muscles. When these muscles are not properly warmed up and stretched before exercise begins, muscle strains occur.
Your 5-Step Injury Prevention Plan
Injuries don’t have to slow you from meeting your fitness goals. The following 5 steps will dramatically reduce your chance of injury and if you do find yourself injured, but have been following these 5 steps, your recovery will be quick and efficient.
Step 1: Mash, Smash, and Move
Mash – Use any tool that hits the soft tissue areas of your body. Pay special attention to your areas of greatest need. I prefer a LAX ball, foam roller and even a barbell to do this. Look for spots that hurt. Work the whole body of your muscles then work down to your biggest pain areas.
Smash – Move the tool (LAX Ball, Roller, Barbell, etc.) all around your muscles and fascia and find those spots that hurt. Spend time of them by smashing, then hold those spots for a minute and simply breath. If it hurts, you need it more.
Move – Move the muscles you just mashed and smashed either with simple extension-flexion or simple exercises that are in your warm up. Form is obviously critical here. Proper form will also re-train your CNS (Cental Nervous System).
You can Mash, Smash and Move before and after exercising. You can make extended Mash, Smash and Moving sessions as an active recovery day too.
One of my favorite “Moves” after Mashing and Smashing is the Turkish Get Up. It really is loaded yoga. It has a hip extension, a rolling pattern, a couple hip hinges, a lunge pattern and is incredible for full body mobility, stability, and (when load is added) strength.
You can also Stretch after you mash and smash. What is more boring than stretching? You want to exercise, not sit around touching your toes—right? Even though it isn’t exciting, stretching is the best way to increase muscle elasticity and durability. Tight muscles are big contributors to strains—remember? Take the time to stretch every day before (dynamically) and after (static) your workout to stave off injury.
Step 2: Warm Up – Dynamic
Preparing for your workout should not begin and end with putting on your gym clothes. Your muscles need to be coaxed into motion by way of a 10-15 minute warm up in order to prepare them for injury-free use. Cold muscles are less elastic and are, therefore, more prone to tears. Talking dynamic movements here not static stretching.
Step 3: Proper Gear
For most fitness enthusiasts proper gear has everything to do with their shoes. Don’t be fooled—not just any shoe will do. Find shoes that offer support and traction for your exercise of choice, and make sure that they aren’t too tight or too loose. If you are prone to ankle injuries then try a pair of high-tops for extra support until you fix the stability problem.
Stay away from squishy running sneakers to train in! They actually contribute to the above-mentioned injuries.
Step 4: Lifestyle
Stop for a moment and think about your car—if you don’t maintain it with regular tune-ups, oil changes, and quality fuel then you can’t expect it to perform well on the road. The same applies to your body. Getting healthy amounts of sleep, eating well-balanced meals and staying hydrated will all contribute to your performance during exercise. The healthier your lifestyle is the less likely you are to suffer an injury.
Step 5: Condition
This may seem like the most obvious step to injury prevention, but unfortunately, it is the most overlooked. People who keep their bodies in top condition by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are the least likely to injure themselves. When exercise programs are started and stopped sporadically your muscles are most likely to become injured.
Of course being conditioned also has another great benefit that everyone enjoys – you get to look and feel great! And who doesn’t what that, right?
BIG Take Home Points
I now want you to think of the Mashing, Smashing, and Moving like brushing and flossing your teeth. If you do not do it daily, you will get a cavity!
You cannot eat and drink and expect great teeth and gum health without brushing and flossing right????
Don’t play to get in shape, get in shape to play!
Well, you can’t expect healthy muscles and joints without proper maintenance either. Mash, Smash and Move for full body health and injury prevention!
Stay Strong My Friends!