The common notion “Exercising when you’re injury prone increases the risk of further injuries”, is debatable. With so many views available, how do you make a choice?
Since working out strengthens weak muscles and improves the biomechanics of the human body, the chances of incurring new injuries is reduced; muscles and joints that are prone to injuries also get strengthened in the process. However, a higher propensity for injury requires individuals to take precautionary measures and additional care to prevent the occurrence of pain.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from injuries while exercising if you are injury-prone:
Start with a Physical Assessment
If you’re starting off with a new regime, insist on getting a physical assessment done. Your Body Posture, Movement, Muscle Endurance, Body Balance and Gait are put to test in the assessment to understand your body type and its potential. This step is critical for individuals who are injury prone, since it allows the trainer to identify weak joints/muscles, enabling him/her to design an appropriate regime.
Get a suitable exercise programme design
Based on your physical assessment, a fitness coach will design a workout regimen keeping your problem areas and health goals in mind. The ‘design’ will contain detailed advice on a number of aspects including the frequency of exercise and exercise order (the order in which you are supposed to do the exercises). It will also cover facets like rest period (the duration of break between exercises) and exercise volume (the intensity and duration of a workout).This programme will factor in the weaknesses and injuries of clients.
If you’re prone to injuries, ensure that you get a personalized exercise regimen designed by a professional fitness instructor. Never start on a one-size-fits-all workout routine which could carry a high risk of injury.
A warm-up and cool down routine is essential
My colleague, Fitness Coach Meenakshi S, says that people who are injury prone need an extended warm up period of 10 to 15 minutes of dynamic mobility drills to get their heart rate elevated and lubricate their joints. This cuts down chances of injury and prevents breathlessness during exercise.
Although many people tend to skip a cool down routine after workout, neglecting it can be harmful especially if you are injury prone. “A proper cooling down period that includes stretching helps the body relax and alleviates pain,” says Meenakshi.
Make sure you get proper nutrition
Working out on an empty stomach causes injuries. As Meenakshi says, “One should never exercise on an empty stomach since it leads to muscle soreness and exhaustion.”
A proper pre- and post-workout meal is essential. A pre-workout meal should be rich in carbohydrates and low in fats and proteins. It should be eaten at least 30-40 minutes before the start of exercise. Banana, oats, and peanut butter & toast are excellent pre-workout meals. A post-workout meal, on the other hand, should be rich in proteins and carbs and should be eaten within 30 minutes of exercise.
Proper diet also varies according to the kind of injuries you are susceptible to. As Meenakshi explains: “For instance, if you are prone to bone injuries or suffer from conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis or gout, a calcium-rich diet is recommended. Low-fat dairy products like skimmed milk and yoghurt, sesame seeds and ragi are other examples of calcium-rich food.
She adds that patients of gout could increase their intake of foodstuffs like berries, fish and soya which contains anti-inflammatory properties. Broccolli, which contains an ingredient called Sulforaphane, can help patients with osteoarthritis.
Meenakshi recommends a diet that is rich in protein, potassium and antioxidants for people prone to muscle injury. Whey, eggs and seafood are examples of protein-rich foods, while banana is a rich source of potassium. “Pineapple contains an ingredient called bromelain that helps decrease pain and inflammation in muscles,” says Meenakshi. “Walnut, almond, pistachio, flaxseeds and chia seeds, which contain Omega 3 fatty acids and ALA, are also useful in controlling muscle pain.”
Proper hydration is another critical element of workout. Lack of water in the body causes muscle cramps among other things, leading to severe pain. Drink two glasses of water one hour before exercise and remember to drink 100-150 ml of water every 15-20 minutes during the workout session. If you are exercising outdoors or in hot weather for 45 minutes for more, hydrate with a sports drink that contains carbohydrate, sodium and potassium. It will help replenish those nutrients that are lost due to sweating.
Use proper gear
Prone to knee injuries? Wear a knee brace. Have an ankle injury? Exercise with an ankle brace. If you’re aware of weak muscles/joints, that are susceptible to injury, you could prevent it by making use of proper gear and taking suitable measures.
In case of outdoor workouts, take the climate into consideration whilst wearing appropriate gear to prevent illnesses and injuries. Your exercise trail also makes a large difference. For instance, if you are training for a marathon on a dirt track in the countryside, you need different shoes from the ones you would normally use indoors to keep you comfortable and prevent injuries.
Choosing the right gear for the right exercise environment will help you protect yourself from injury and minimize your chances of developing pain and soreness from extended durations of physical activity.
While the tips listed above may help you avoid injuries, don’t hesitate to call a doctor if you think you need medical help. Above all, stay in touch with your fitness coach and keep him/her updated about your physical condition and progress. If you feel any sort of discomfort, stop immediately and seek professional help.
Working with an experienced trainer can help you avoid exercise-related injuries. Connect with India’s top coaches here.