Getting it right in the New Year

With any New Year comes many resolutions to improve our health and fitness. We get a boost of motivation to start eating healthier, start our gym workouts, walk daily or resume swimming etc with a new found energy that we didn’t seem to have before.

Sometimes there are existing mild injuries that if not addressed can hinder the well intentioned new year fitness goals

We often start to see a gradual increase of patients with new injuries that have slowly developed since starting their new fitness programs. These injuries can be deflating, to say the least, as they restrict our ability to continue exercising, and are often the cause of breaking our well planned resolutions.

There are certain aspects of training that you should be aware of prior to unaccustomed physical activity.

This blog will look at

1. Ways to help keep that new years enthusiasm for a healthier start and

2. The most common injuries that tend to occur and how to avoid.

Strategies to help keep those fitness goals

  1. Start pain free. Get professional help with any of those small niggles and aches that are already there. A Physio led rehab program can give you the support you need to kick start an exercise regimen. Manual therapy techniques and identifying some of the trouble spots can prevent minor issues becoming major de-railers.
  2. Be Achievable: Choose something that is realistic and not too far off from your current routine. Be as specific as you can, but give room for adaptations and variety in your workouts.
  3. Have a Timeline for progress: Start off slow, and increase the frequency once you’ve been accustomed to the change. If you haven’t been exercising at all in the past, start with just a 30-min workout, 1-2x/week.
  4. Allow for cheat days: Let yourself take a break every few weeks. Look forward to these breaks so you can push through until then.
  5. Set rules: Set some ground rules for when you’re sick, or when you have a really busy week at work. I don’t recommend going to the gym or working out when you are sick, but once you return to work, you should be able to do light intensity workouts.
  6. Tell somebody: telling a friend or family member or even posting online to Twitter or Facebook will reinforce your commitment to this resolution. The more people who know about it, the better chance you have of following through.
  7. Gadgets like activity trackers can motivate you to get active on a daily basis, but what keeps you going is your self-determination to get healthy. So even before you begin on your journey, discover why you want to start exercising more. Understand what it is that you want to gain from exercising, and take some time to research about it.
  8. If you have health concerns, take time to learn about them. Ask your doctor, or look online to find more information about the condition (what it is, the possible causes, risks, and how exercise has been shown to reduce it). Once you really understand why and how exercise helps, it will create the motivation for you to continue moving and be active.

Common Injuries and how to avoid them

The most common injuries to occur are overuse injuries from repetitive action. During exercise, we apply stress to our tissues, which adapt by building more tissue to increase strength. This results in stronger muscles and tendons and an increased or maintained bone density. However, if an excessive load is placed repeatedly on any structure, and/or sufficient rest and recovery measures aren’t put in place, the tissue is unable to adapt quickly enough, which can lead to microscopic injuries, inflammation and pain.

Poor Technique and Malalignment. It is extremely important to ensure correct technique when performing any exercise at all stages of training. By maintaining good posture and joint position at the beginning and during each exercise this allows your muscles to work in the most efficient way.

Incorrect Use of Equipment. If you are new to a gym or piece of equipment, ensure to have a fitness professional demonstrate and instruct you on safe use

Insufficient Strength and Endurance. Putting your muscles through a new training program, when they are weak and have poor endurance, can cause them to fail and become injured. Start easy and gradually increase the intensity and duration of each exercise to allow your muscles to adapt

Poor Flexibility. When your flexibility is poor, your joints and muscles are unable to move and work through their full range and are, therefore, unable to gain the full benefits of strengthening exercises and can lead to muscle imbalances. Stretching is most important during training. It is ideal to dynamically stretch your muscles prior to exercise (eg. High knee / kick bum jogging in the warm up – moving the joints through large ranges), and hold static stretches following exercise, making sure to stretch all muscle groups you have been using.

Poor Core Stability. Having poor core stability can often lead to low back pain. Your deep core muscles are your spine’s support system and need to be engaged in all exercise to avoid excessive movement of your spine.Pilates can help you become aware of how to re-engage your core muscles with exercise. You can then apply the basic Pilates principles to all aspects of your training

Training Errors. The biggest training error seen is too much, too soon. Gradually work into your training routine to maintain your motivation and keep you on track throughout the whole year.

We can prevent some injuries by following some simple principles

  • Warm-up and cool-down before and after all exercise. This includes dynamic stretching before and static stretching after. Research shows the most beneficial stretching is after exercise.
  • Ensure you use good equipment, including appropriate footwear.
  • Gradually increase your exercise by no more than 10% each week (distance, speed, weight)
  • Practice correct technique. All repetitions should be performed with optimal technique. If you start to notice that you are changing your technique towards the end of a set, as it becomes harder to lift the weight, either you need to stop the set at that repetition or lower the weight to enable you to finish the set with good technique

If you are experiencing any pain, seek early treatment in order to identify and correct the cause of your pain to enable you to continue your program

Your Physio can set you a graduated program to ensure full injury rehabilitation. This is important so you don’t develop compensatory injuries in other areas

Whilst overuse injuries are most common with new exercise programs, it is important to know that acute injuries, such as strains and sprains, can also occur. Muscle strains and tears will generally occur when lifting too heavy, too soon, or when you are insufficiently warmed-up. Inflexible muscles are most likely to become injured, so ensuring you are implementing a good stretching program leading up to and throughout any exercise program is essential. Ankle and knee sprains will mostly occur when exercising on uneven surfaces or when doing lots of twisting and changing directions. Ensuring sufficient muscular strength and support surrounding these joints prior to increasing agility exercise is a good way to minimise the risk of debilitating sprains.

If you think you may have gone too hard, too fast when starting this year’s new fitness program, take a step back and make some adjustments to avoid any injuries. Speak with one of our physios to keep you on track.

If you have any doubts about any current niggles or pains see one of our experienced physios to get it assessed and prevent it from stopping your well intentioned New Years resolution.

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