When you drop a kettlebell on your foot or accidentally kick the coffee table, there’s no mystery as to why you’re injured. It’s when there isn’t an obvious cause and you find yourself limping to the sideline that leaves you scratching your head (and rubbing your achy muscles or tendons) in search of clues as to what went wrong.
Last December, I injured my knee. I knew the exact cause…I banged it on the granite countertop! OUCH. It took 3 weeks before I could go back to my regular workouts. Then, this past January, I injured my back. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment it happened, so I wasn’t sure the cause of it. After a week’s worth of rest, I was able to get back to my workouts. Then, 2 weeks later, I injured my neck. This time I knew what caused the injury, it was a certain move in one of my workouts. However, I was really frustrated and was questioning why I kept getting injury after injury.
I was able to finally figure out what was causing me to have these injuries! Here are 5 reasons that could be keeping you from injury-free exercise:
1. You aren’t drinking enough water
Dehydration can lead to loss of focus and coordination. The less focus you have, the more prone you are to making avoidable mistakes. Dehydration produces a lower level of performance …the muscle doesn’t have the capacity to do its full range of motion, therefore, leading to a greater risk of injury.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how much water you should consume on a daily basis. The “drink eight glasses per day” advice you were taught in phys ed has largely been dismissed. So instead of going by thirst, check your urine. If it’s dark in color, like iced tea, chug a glass of water. If it’s pale yellow to nearly clear, you’re in the clear.
2. You’re unsure about being sore
Do you know the difference between good sore and bad sore? This is good to know as it can enable you to detect an injury, or prevent one from worsening.
Bad soreness typically has a radiating sensation. Or it’s a localized, continual disruption or irritation. The pain is typically sharp, shooting, stinging, or radiating. Joint pain also qualifies as a bad soreness. Whether you feel a radiating sensation or discomfort in the joints, a wise idea would be to reassess your approach to training and recovery, and revisit your body alignment during exercises that utilize those body parts. You should also ice down the injury to reduce inflammation.
3. You skip the warm-up
A proper warm-up does more than prime the body for a workout; it helps improve your performance. If you dodge your warm-up or fail to loosen up synergistic (or supporting) muscles, joints, etc., that oversight can come back to bite your shoulders, ankles, back, knees. For example, a progression or level up from a squat and a lunge would be a jump squat and a jump lunge. And if you’re not physically prepared for those movements, your muscles will think, ‘Well, my quads are warmed up because I did squats and lunges…but did you warm up your ankles? Your knees? Your calves? Because those things are the things that will probably go wrong.
4. Your ego is bigger than your muscles
I know it’s hard, and trust me, I struggle with this too…but sitting out a set when you’re too tired to continue or subbing in an easier exercise for one that’s too advanced is sometimes necessary to prevent injury. Double-check your technique and body alignment during the movement to reassure yourself that what you’re doing isn’t demanding too much of your body. Don’t be afraid to go slow and steady at first, this enables enough time to recruit other muscle fibers to help support and handle the workload.
5. You’re not stretching enough
Sometimes we are in a rush to finish our workout and we skip the pre-and post-workout stretch. But skipping the stretch is one of the worst things you can do..and this is where I was going wrong.
Stretching increases flexibility and encourages your joints to move through their full range of motion. A pre-workout stretch should consist of dynamic stretches (active movements of muscle that bring forth a stretch, but are not held in the end position.) A post-workout stretch on the other hand, consists of static stretches, in which the position is held for a certain amount of time.
And don’t forget to incorporate yoga into your weekly routine. I know for some of us, myself included, this is really hard to do. The slow movement of yoga can be seen as boring and a waste of time, but trust me, your body needs that added stretch to increase it’s flexibility which in turn, will help keep you injury free and, you’ll also be able to tackle your workouts with greater intensity.