Common Injuries and How To Avoid Them

Workout injuries can happen to anyone, from a novice on their first day of exercise to an Olympic athlete who has been training for most of their life. However, there are certain precautions you can take that can significantly reduce your chances of getting hurt.

Some of the commonest injuries that people suffer from when exercising include;

  • Muscle sprains and strains
  • A sprained ankle or wrist
  • Shoulder and knee injuries
  • Shin splints
  • Tendinitis

To help prevent injury, always try to remember the following points;

Warm-up and cool-down

Every workout should begin with a warm-up and end with a cool-down period. A warm-up helps your body get ready for exercise by slowly increasing your heart rate and loosening your muscles and joints ahead of your main exercise. Ways to warm up include spending 10 minutes on an exercise bike and skipping or jogging on the spot for five to 10 minutes. Cooling down after you work out is also important to slowly bring your heart rate back to normal and allow your muscles to recover. Walking for five to 10 minutes after you work out is one way to cool down, or you can gently practise a series of stretching exercises in between gentle skipping or jogging. Stretching also increases your flexibility and reduces the risk of muscle soreness after exercise.

Start slowly

When starting a new exercise routine or workout program, always aim to start slowly and gradually build up the intensity, duration, and frequency over a number of weeks. As your fitness abilities increase, you will be able to push your fitness levels more and remember not to overuse one set of muscles. Vary your workout to avoid overuse and repetitive type injuries.

Listen to your body

Ignore the gym addict who tells you "no pain, no gain". You don’t need lots of pain to get fitter! Don't push yourself to the point of pain or injury and if you feel a pain, you may be injured. Stop your workout, assess how you are and, if necessary, rest for 24-48 hours. Take one to two days off a week to rest anyway - rest gives your body a chance to recover between workouts.

Remember to refuel your body with food and water

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you work out. A simple guide is to drink 250mls of water about 20 to 30 minutes before working out, then 250mls every 10 to 20 minutes during your workout, and 500mls when you have finished your workout. After your workout, eat a healthy carbohydrate and protein snack to refill your energy stores.

Dress appropriately

Wear the proper gear for your workout. If you are a runner, wear a good pair of running shoes that fit properly. If you are a cyclist, always wear a helmet. Make sure the clothes you wear are comfortable and not too tight, so that your circulation is not restricted.

Despite all precautions, injuries can still sometimes happen so if they do remember the RICE method to stop your injury getting worse:

R: Rest the injury
I: Ice the injury to lessen swelling, bleeding, and inflammation
C: apply a Compression bandage to minimize swelling
E: Elevate the injury to reduce swelling

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can be taken to ease pain and inflammation from the injury but check with your health professional that it is safe for you to take these.

Fortunately, most workout injuries will heal on their own in four weeks or less. If the injury has not improved within a week, or if it gets worse, seek medical advice, and use common sense - if you're concerned about it, get it checked out. Until you are fully healed, avoid doing the activity that triggered the injury and don’t be tempted to return to your sport or activity too quickly. If you are frustrated while your injury is healing, try another activity - if you sprain your ankle, exercise your arms instead. If you hurt your shoulder, work out your legs by walking.

If you have been pain-free for more than a week you should be able to start back to exercising but take it slowly to start with and don’t go back to your old activity level straight away. Because you will need to rebuild your muscle strength and endurance it can take a few weeks of regular exercise to regain your old level of fitness. Don’t push yourself too hard and too fast too quickly - you may injure yourself again and take longer to heal next time.