There’s nothing worse than just getting active or starting a new sport and suddenly being hit with an injury that lays you out for a spell.
July 5th is National Injury Prevention Day, and with Summer being a more active time for many of us, I thought it was a great time to talk about how to prepare the body to prevent injury while staying active.
Prevention truly is the best medicine, and I’ll cover some practices and nutrition to set your body up for resiliency.
Preventing Injury While Exercising
Take Rest Days
Many sports injuries are from overuse, so rest days are not just for nothing. Resting in between training helps your muscles, joints, and ligaments recover to be ready to get back at it. Make sure to take at least 1-2 days off per week to recover.
Take your time to build up to lifting heavier weights, longer hikes, or more intense games. Give your body a chance to strengthen and adjust, and you’ll see progress in no time.
Take Time to Stretch and Warm Up
Loosening up any tight muscles ahead of a session with some light stretching can help with mobility and combat any rigidity that could increase risk of injury. Spending another 5-10 minutes moving, such as walking, ahead of a workout or game also helps ‘warm up’ muscles.
Strengthen Your Core
Maintaining good core strength is paramount to preventing back injuries. The core muscles work to stabilise the spine and pelvis so you are less likely to strain your back. A strong core can also help reduce existing back pain, helping you stay more mobile.
Learn Proper Technique and Alignment
Consulting with a trainer, teacher, or coach can go a long way in learning proper technique and alignment in order to prevent injuries and strain. It may seem insignificant, but repetitive motion without proper form can lead to major injuries.
Wear Good Footwear
Wearing the right footwear for the occasion with proper ankle or arch support is key to prevent falls, turned ankles, and preventing back and joint pain. No hiking or weight training in flip flops!
Stop if You’re in Pain
If you’re in pain, it's always best to stop. Don’t try and push through it. Take the cue to rest, and recover, or come back another day. The body knows best.
How Nutrition Can Prevent Injury, and Boost Recovery
A mistake many people make when trying to lose weight is restricting calories too much. The body requires adequate calories to repair and build tissue as we train, and not getting enough fuel can impair this process and increase injury and slow recovery. We are also more likely to get injured when we are tired and weak, which will happen without enough food. Make sure to adjust your intake to account for your increased activity.
Proteins are the building blocks for muscles and joints, and inadequate protein can increase risk of injury. Incorporate protein with every meal and snack, and source complete proteins such as eggs, fish, pastured meat, or by pairing plant-based options together in order to get the full amino acid profile.
Collagen is a great protein to highlight in injury prevention, as it is the main component of joints and connective tissue. Bone broth, or collagen supplements can help maintain healthy and flexible joints.
Getting enough carbohydrates not only acts as fuel for our physical activity, but it also helps keep our muscles strong. Chronic carb deprivation can lead to weakened muscle tissue and therefore increase the risk of injury. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all excellent sources of healthy carbs.
Low dietary fats have been linked with increased risk of fractures due to physical stress, and low omega 3 has been linked to greater inflammatory response and longer recovery in injury. Healthy fats also act as lubrication for joints. Some examples of healthy fats include fish, grass fed dairy, meats, eggs, nuts and seeds and avocado.
When we are dehydrated, we are more prone to injuries as our joints are less supple. Dehydration also puts more stress on the body, and can be dangerous when you start to sweat and excrete more fluids due to physical exertion. Stay well hydrated with plenty of water and electrolytes, such as salt and other minerals.
Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D
Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D work together to strengthen bones, fuel muscles and prevent fractures. Most calcium rich dairy is fortified with vitamin D, but many people benefit from an additional vitamin D supplement especially living on the west coast where there are fewer sunny days.
Have FUN and stay safe!