Helen Christie is a blogger, educator and motivator with a passion for healthy living and keeping fit. Helen is very influential on social media, offering her followers workout plans, dietary tips and everything in between. She currently has her own website, 'Hells Fitness' where she regularly posts her fitness and lifestyle blogs. So, we decided to invite Helen to be our guest blogger. Happily she said yes, and she has provided a fantastic blog on avoiding injury in the gym.
Athlete or not, getting an injury is debilitating and down-right annoying. And whether we like it or not, years of consistent training does create wear and tear on the body. However, this long-term wear and tear can be minimised and major injury can be prevented.
The level of intensity involved in your workout usually correlates with how likely you are to get injured. So if you’re doing extreme workouts such as Insanity, or competitive long-distance running then you’re more likely to get an injury. So how do we ensure that we still challenge ourselves when we work out, without becoming vulnerable to injury?
Let's start by identifying the two most common types of injury from exercise.
Traumatic injuries are injuries that suddenly happen as a result of exercise or daily activity (i.e. a sprained ankle).
Cumulative injuries relate to damage that occurs over time as a result of repetitive strain. These injuries creep up and may be a result of poor movement patterns, muscular imbalances or improper training (i.e. bad posture when training).
IT IS POSSIBLE to live an active life, injury free. This comes from using preventative measures both inside and outside of the gym.
Traumatic Injury Prevention:
'Warming up' always takes me back to my school days when my P.E teacher would make us do start jumps and laps of the sports hall whilst banging on about the great importance of warming up. As tedious as this seemed at the time, warming up should not be overlooked. A good warm up prepares our muscles and nervous system for exercise and is essential for injury prevention. Dynamic stretches and walking on an incline are my favourite ways to warm up.
Know your limits
When it comes to training, it takes time to build up your strength and endurance as your body needs time to adapt and grow. It's important to know your body's limits and not to push your body over the edge of its physical ability, or injury will almost certainly occur. For me, this was about starting with the basics and focussing on building up a solid foundation of correct movement patterns before introducing weights.
It's so important to let your body rest and recover around your training. One of the most important parts of exercising effectively is giving your body time to recover. If you exercise beyond your body's ability to recover, it's not just injuries that you become vulnerable to, but an overall drop in wellbeing, including decreased immunity and fatigue. Too much stress can result in an overtrained and under-recovered state that leads to overuse injuries.
Cumulative injury prevention:
Don't avoid an issue - address it head on
One thing I learnt in my early days of training is to be careful with substitution. When I first started squatting I experienced knee pain, so instead of consulting with a Personal Trainer or a Physio, I immediately substituted squats for the leg press machine which was a lot easier on my knees. This came around to bite me when I started to feel lower back pain due to lack of upper-body and core control around my leg workouts. This was due to using machines rather than free-weights. Don't avoid an issue. Substituting can be great but what's even better is understanding the cause of the issue and addressing it. Or, finding a substitute which isn't going to cause harm further down the line.
Don't continue through pain
If you're experiencing pain when you work out then this is not to be ignored. If you're in pain it usually means that your body is trying to tell you something like 'please stop', 'this is damaging me', 'can we find a healthy substitute please?', 'can we stretch this muscle before we use it please?', ‘can we stop over-using this muscle please!?’.
Invest in a professional
Ask yourself this; would you go and fly a helicopter if one was parked outside your front door right now? I know I wouldn't - because I have no idea how to fly one. Firstly, I'd go and find somebody who knows how to fly a helicopter and who has years of experience and qualification, and I'd ask them to teach me how. It's the same for your working out. If you don't know how to perform an exercise correctly, then don't perform it, until you've consulted with an expert. Make sure that you qualify your expert by exploring their years of experience and areas of expertise. It's very easy to think you're doing things right after watching a tutorial online, but I'd always recommend professional advice before tackling advanced movements in the gym.
Water is also the single most critical nutrient for health, growth, and development and is essential to the balance of all the body's systems, including the heart, kidneys, brain, lungs and muscles. Just a 2% drop in body water can cause a small but critical shrinkage of the brain, which can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and cause slow thinking. Dehydration can also reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramping, and slow muscular response which are all factors which can contribute towards injury.
We want to give a big thank you to Helen for such an entertaining and educational piece, as Helen covered in the blog, she has her own lower body dynamic stretching routine, you can see that now on her Instagram page here. You can also read more of Helen's health, lifestyle and fitness blogs at Hells Fitness, by visiting www.hellsfitness.co.uk.