Winter has come and we are in the heart of various sporting seasons where it is time for a lot of athletes to peak and reap the rewards of their training. Instead, I am witnessing more and more common injuries that could be so easily generally avoided.
Being a sports therapist and being responsible for a lot of athletes across various sporting disciplines, their injuries and subsequent performance, I am often asked for advice on managing an injury that athletes have invariably encountered recently in their training/ preparation. What I am about to say applies to athletes as well as coaches, as both are equally responsible for performance levels.
While each injury is different, these top 11 tips or areas that need to be considered are:
1. Set realistic goals
This has to be age and stage appropriate. Goals need to be measurable and have to be realistic. Often the mistake I see is the goal is way to unrealistic and someone hurts themselves trying too hard to achieve the impossible for them. Please stop buying into the gross media stereotypes of what is ideal and desirable. It is worth consulting a specialist to guide you through what your specific sporting needs are.
2. Understand your limitations
This is an extension of point number one. If you are a 45 year old father of 3, then respect that your body will not be able to do what you did when you were 25. As long as you understand what physical limitations you may have, then setting achievable goals becomes easier.
3. Take it slowly. Be patient
Getting fit is a lifestyle choice that needs time to implement. By setting small benchmark goals, the much larger goal will be easier to achieve. For example, in body composition courses they teach us that losing body fat in the regular person is a slow process. Aiming for 250gms per week of fat loss is actually more realistic than losing 2-3 kg in a week – after 6 months you may lose up to 6 kg though, so keep at it!
4. Stretching on a 1:2 ratio
Spend more time stretching the major muscle groups, particularly the ones that attach onto the pelvis – the hamstrings, hip flexors, lower back, abdominals. These are key areas that contribute to our injury profiles as we get older. For every 10 minutes of training per week, you should do 5 minutes of stretching. Training will make you tight, so stretching will help relax muscles post-training as well as acting as a recovery modality.
5. Work your Core
Not abdominal curls or sit-ups but more functional bracing type exercises are necessary. Planks, side planks and bird-dogs are the type of core exercises I am talking about. Do 2-3 types of these sessions per week.
6. Balance and stability
Similarly, balance training is equally important. All sports require a good degree of balance and stability. Standing on one leg or balance board has been shown to stimulate the receptor to muscle systems that control our bodies in locomotion and all movements.
7. Achieving the right muscle balance
This refers to having balance in the exercises we choose. Remember, left to right symmetry is just as important as front to back symmetry. In the lower body, balancing hip dominant posterior chain with knee dominant type movements, and in the mid section balance ventral exercises (abdominals) with dorsal (back) exercises.
8. Wearing the Correct shoes
If you want to squat in your inappropriate, non-specific or fashion shoes go for it. But do not be surprised if you end up with ankle and knee problems as a result. Have a chat with a podiatrist or a sports therapist about what may be the best shoes for you whether it be for running, trail, gym work or body combat classes or zumba in the studio.
Most of us need 7 hours per night of quality sleep. We can function on 4-5 hours per night but if our diet is poor and other stress factors are high, we can fall in a heap very quickly and end up with illness or injury.
This is the one area that is so easy to fix but the majority of us ignore. Make sure you drink 2 litres of water per day – don’t include tea, coffee and diet coke! Water is an essential component of our bodies and the only way we detoxify ourselves is through our kidneys. So drink up!
11. Dress Appropriately
Yet too many people are taking to practicing sports or training without the appropriate gear. The shorts or half leggings that you were wearing in the summer are no longer suitable for winter training. Make sure you are covered, especially if you are training outdoors. You have to understand that the temperature outside influences how your muscles get warm and the efficiency of your warm-up. Overlooking this increases your risk of injuries.
Whatever your objectives, I’d highly recommend you incorporate at least some of these tips into your fitness regime. Injuries can ruin all your hard work in an instant, and heeding this advice will help you avoid them.
This is also why I recommend you come and have a chat so that we can guide and support you through expert advice and tips. Do not wait for it to be too late. You can have instant access to cutting edge prevention and treatment advice TODAY.