ARTICLE: HOW I STAY INJURY FREE
Before I delve into this post I should point out that I am well aware that by writing it I am seriously tempting fate!! However, up to this point, I have been injury free for 4 years whilst training regularly and continually pushing myself. I think that is a pretty good run and here’s hoping it carries on (despite jinxing it) by continuing to apply the same rules that I have for the last 4 years. This advice is important anyone that trains regularly but even more so in January due to the fact that many people are trying new things and pushing their bodies in ways that they may never have before. Overall this is a good thing, but injury is a consideration and what we all want is to train hard, but remain injury free. I cannot guarantee this information is absolutely full proof but it is a good guide and has definitely worked for me!
The first and most important thing is to listen to your body. If something feels awkward, uncomfortable or causes pain (even mild) stop and adapt. There is sometimes a mentality that there is a weakness in adapting our training due to pain but there shouldn’t be! There is a difference between pain that causes injury and the discomfort you feel during a hard training session. Anyone that has exercised before will know the difference but for any beginners the signs of an injury are acute localised pain whereas pain caused by fatigue tends to feel more like burning and generally subsides a few moments after you stop the move. By listening to your body you can adapt any exercise that causes pain and prevent this initial warning sign from turning to injury. This is not a sign of personal weakness, it is the smart thing to do as it means you will not need to stop training! No matter what type of exercise you are doing, there will always be an available alternative or you can use this pain or discomfort as an opportunity to adjust your technique. I was getting some mild pain in my elbow every time I did pull ups so I filmed my technique and amended it accordingly. I listened to my body, took a few simple steps to adjust and have been pain free since! I didn’t even need to miss a single rep!
For me a big factor in staying injury free has also been giving up lifting weights. Now before anyone gets upset by this statement I will start by saying that lifting weight can be executed safely and I am not saying it should be avoided but, for me, being injury free has directly coincided with this fact and there are a few reasons for this. The first and most important reason is that by doing only body weight training I have become far more in tune with my body. I am much more aware of my strengths and weaknesses, areas where I am tight and therefore restricted and, as we just discussed, I listen to my body much more! When I was lifting weights, and I do not believe I am not alone in this mentality, I often ignored important signs just to lift more! With weight training, often our focus is on the weight and not on ourselves. Plus, like it or not, fatigue always leads to at least one bad rep in a set (often more), which can lead to injury! You might be reading this thinking that I have sacrificed fitness, strength or fat burn by going body weight training only but that could not be further from the truth as I have never been stronger, leaner or more flexible, training without inhibition, without time off for injury and motivated to explore what my body is capable of without the shackles of the barbell. Of course so many people love lifting weights and quite right too as there are a number of benefits, but all I will say is be mindful of your body and do not prioritise lifting more weight above all else! Be fussy about your form, get advice from a professional and do not try be a barbell hero!
My final tip is to rest. This wont come as a big shock to everyone as it is pretty standard advice however, that does not mean it is always taken! Training can become addictive (if you are not there yet trust me it can happen) and many people train days and days without a rest eventually resulting in injury. I train hard 4 days a week, every single week and generally go for a light run on the 5th day then I have 2 days off, always! I predominately do this because I know my muscles need the time to rest and recover which will keep me injury free, but it also allows me to train more effectively on my training days. It is absolutely a win win. I know it can be tempting to chase faster results but long term your body will pay the price!
Exercise should not be viewed as a punishment that causes pain or leaves you feeling exhausted. Of course, it can be uncomfortable at times but do not misread the signals, listen to your body and stay injury free! If you ever speak to anyone that has been plagued by injuries you will be grateful that you did.
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