Injury prevention: how to stay safe
As a GP, one of the most common things I see are injuries related to activity, most commonly back, shoulders, and knee injuries.
Here are some tips I have for Injury Prevention:
Preparation is very important. That’s why it’s best to see a personal trainer or attend a gym class before setting off on doing workouts on your own. You can either do a free gym trial at places like Fitness First, or as an alternative, attend the free outdoor park classes available in Sydney. These are run by personal trainers and can be a low cost alternative to an ongoing gym membership. If however, you don’t have the time or resources to attend these, always make sure before doing any exercises, read the description carefully or watch the video carefully.
Warm-up and cool-down. Warming up is important for increasing blood flow to your muscles and getting you physically and mentally prepared to workout. Stretching after you finish helps to improve flexibility in the your muscles and prevent injury. Usually I warm-up with Jumping Jackets or skipping with my weighted skipping rope for 2 minutes. These are an example of cool-down stretches you should do.
Variety. Practicing the principle of variety is very important. If you constantly do the same exercise every day, the chances of injury from repetitive stress is higher. Furthermore, it just gets boring and hard to maintain.
Practice mindfulness. Most people have heard of mindfulness by now, but if you haven’t, the dictionary defines it in two ways:
- The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
- A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Most people use mindfulness as the second definition- a meditation technique to help manage anxiety or stress. And I think it is a very good tool for that, and one that I encourage my patients to use frequently, especially for poor sleep. However, I use it in a slightly different way. I use the first definition:
“The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”
And what I’m being conscious or aware of is my body- specifically, while exercising. I am aware of my body during every push-up, squat, burpee, kettlebell swing, and underarm row. What this means is I am aware of the state of my muscles, which ones are being worked, which ones need to be relaxed to make this movement work, which ones need to be tensed. This is also known as kinaesthetic awareness or kinaesthetic sense– and it protects me from overdoing it and causing injury. Plus, it really helps with your movements in everyday life- bending down to pick up your child, reaching for things on a shelf. You are in completely awareness of your body and it’s movements and it’s good for preventing accidental injuries (which are far more common than you think! Trust me, I’ve seen disc herniations from random stumbles on the footpath).
How do you develop this mindfulness? By practicing. Take a look at some mindfulness exercises suggested by The Black Dog Institute. I specifically include a yoga or ballet workout at least once every few weeks because not only do these improve your flexibility and core strength and therefore prevent injury, they are very good for developing kinaesthetic awareness. Sometimes when you’re doing repetitive high energy exercises such as Jumping Jacks you don’t have the time to focus on what your body is doing or feeling. But when you’re holding a yoga position, such as Warrior One- You spend the entire time focusing on holding the position and how your body feels.
Listen to your body. This goes hand in hand with mindfulness. Essentially, as you practice more mindfulness you will learn to recognize your body’s signals. This applies to all areas of your life- stress, mental health, hunger and appetite regulation, and physical activity. If you’re overdoing it, don’t listen to the YouTube PT yelling at you on the screen, listen to your body! There’s nothing worse than pushing yourself beyond your limit, injuring yourself and not being able to do the activities you love for weeks on end. I know because it happened to me.
Don’t forget to breathe. Sometimes when you’re doing HIIT, you’re so focused on performing the exercise, you forget to breathe. It sounds silly, but don’t forget to breathe. Get into a rhythm- inhale as you squat, exhale as you stand. Focus on your breath and use it to practice mindfulness. Concentrate on how your muscles feel as you breathe- are you holding the right position? Are the right muscles feeling the burn?
Finally, if you are injured or worried about becoming injured and you want to check on whether you are fit enough to do HIIT or other exercises, feel free to come see me at my practice for a medical check-up.