Health Hacks for 2021 12/23/20
Injury Prevention and Recovery
As we get older, we are invariably more susceptible to injuries. Since being consistent with your workouts is vital to ongoing health and fitness, ipso facto not getting injured is essential to maintain optimal fitness. What can be done – and not done – to minimize the chances of injury? Here are some practical, proven tips: MY TOP TIPS FOR INJURY PREVENTION AND RECOVERY
Warm up well. Specifically, do some very light cardio for 5 – 10 mins (hop on stationary bike, walk on a treadmill) to warm up the muscles and get the heart rate up. From there, do light stretching; it is always best to stretch warmed up rather than cold muscles. After light stretching (focusing on the muscle groups you’ll be using during your workout), take a very light weight and lift whatever your first exercise is. For example, if I am lifting back and my first exercise is lat pulldowns, I will start at 75 lbs and do 10 – 15 reps very easy, using a full range of motion and letting the weight stretch my already warmed up muscles further. Then I’ll go to 85 lbs, then 100 lbs, repeating the same 10 – 15 reps. Now I am ready to begin pouring on the weight. This may sound like a lot but my total warm up routine takes less than 15 minutes, and I have missed fewer than 3 days of exercise in the last 5 years due to injury.
Stretch. The ideal time so stretch (aggressively vs. light stretching) is post workout. But we don’t always have time then, so another good time is before bed. It is a nice way to unwind, calm the mind and body, or even catch up with your partner (couples stretching can be a fun way to help each other out and connect). You can also use this time to foam roll. I will often watch YouTube videos of something new I am trying to learn or be exposed to (a good recent example is John Heglin, a very interesting fellow my good friend introduced me to). Or catch up on the news, fake or otherwise. Keeping muscles flexible leaves them less prone to injury.
Massage. A good massage can help work out kinks in the body and keep muscles supple. I often use my off days from working out to get a massage so that I’m not tempted to sneak in a workout (yes, once you get on the positive side of the virtuous circle it will take discipline not to workout vs. workout).
Perform good technique. More injuries occur when performing a given exercise with poor technique. It is important to have a full range of motion and, simply put, know what you are doing. There are good videos online that explain proper technique for a given body part.
Rest. For many years I deprived myself of adequate rest and paid the price in myriad ways. Bottom line, we are busy people, it is easy to cut corners when it comes to sleep - or get poor quality sleep due to excess drinking, a dearth of meditation, stress, etc. Rest is when the muscles recover, so get enough of it so that you are not run down and prone to injury.
Feed yourself proper nutrition. Feeding your body nutritious foods is essential for recovery and injury prevention. The last thing you want to do is dedicate time to your workout session, only to sabotage those efforts by consuming crap food (or worse yet alcohol) that basically undoes the workout. Nutrition is a topic in and of itself, but if you find yourself prone to injury and lacking energy/not recovering from your workouts well, examine what you put in your body as a likely culprit. Related, make sure to stay hydrated with at least 10 glasses of water a day.
Build slowly (be patient). We all like to see results quickly, especially with ads being blasted at us constantly promising ‘abs in 7 minutes’ or ’20 lbs of weight loss in 2 weeks with no effort.’ Anything worthwhile takes time (although you would be surprised how quickly you can change your body and health if you follow the right program), so be patient with strength progress, adding mileage to your runs in preparation for a marathon, etc. It is never worth a several week set back to attempt to build too quickly. Slow and steady wins the race every time, so avoid the temptation of cutting corners and jumping from 20 miles of running a week to 50 miles in a short period of time. Give yourself enough time to build incrementally.
Consider cryotherapy or other advanced (or even primitive, e.g. ice baths) forms of recovery. There are centers popping up around the country dedicated to recovery for athletes. These may offer everything from cryo to compression therapy to infrared saunas to float therapy. Determine which protocols and frequencies work best for you. These can really be worth the investment if you value your health.
You can’t win the game if you are not in it, and when it comes to fitness consistency is vital. By implementing the above strategies, you can minimize the chances of being injured - and continue to enjoy the priceless benefits of a healthy active lifestyle.