Athletes of all ages are at risk of injury. Physical fitness can be so good for your muscles, bones, and overall health, but injury prevention is key to avoid hurting yourself during training.
Whether you’re a professional athlete or just getting back into the gym, you should be cautious of how you train to stay healthy and avoid injuring your body. To help, here are nine athletic injury prevention tips based on advice from athletic training resources.
1. Stretch Often
Stretching improves flexibility and helps prevent injuries during intense exercise. This is why experts stress the importance of stretching to athletes.
Stretching also helps you warm up before exercise, improving blood flow and reducing muscle stiffness that can lead to injuries, as well as cool down afterwards.
2. Ensure You Have Correct Form
Before you do any new exercise, always make sure you understand the correct form.
Poor form will not only make the move less effective, it can actually hurt you – especially during weight training. Squats, lunges and deadlifts are good examples of exercises where form is incredibly important.
Working with a personal trainer or athletic trainer on correct form for common exercises can help you build muscle, improve your endurance, and practice good injury prevention during workouts.
3. Maintain a Proper Workout Balance
Balance is key with athletic training. You should incorporate a mix of:
- aerobic exercises (cardio)
- resistance training, and
- flexibility exercises
If you currently love the benefits of yoga, for example, find some cardio exercises and strength routines you can add to your week. If you’re used to running or using the elliptical for each workout, supplement that cardio with some weight lifting and gentle stretches.
Cardio helps burn calories and keep your heart healthy, lifting is good for your bones and muscle strength, and yoga or other flexibility exercises are good for stress relief, range of motion, and so much more.
A fitness professional can also help you alternate programs and add variety to prevent boredom and work all your muscle groups.
4. Pay Attention to Warning Signs
A big part of injury prevention is recognizing overuse injuries and other signs of harm. Common exercise-related injuries include:
- Muscle strains
- ACL and meniscus tears
- Tendinitis (tendon inflammation)
- Rotator cuff tears
Warming up properly, not overtraining (having rest days), and following the rest of these tips can help prevent these types of injuries – or at least catch them before they get worse.
5. Replace Old Clothes or Equipment
Shoes should always provide good arch support and shock absorption, especially if you are a runner or do any type of excessive training.
If your shoes or other exercise equipment start to get worn down or too loose, you should replace them to prevent injuries during your training.
6. Know Your Limitations
Listening to your body is hugely powerful in injury prevention. As an athlete, it’s normal to want to keep pushing yourself, but you should never work out to the point of pain. If your exercise involves a lot of repetitive activity, be mindful of overuse injuries.
If something feels wrong, seek the advice of a medical or sports professional right away.
7. Cool Down
Don’t neglect the cool down after your training! Take time afterwards to walk slowly or do at least 5-10 minutes of gentle stretching.
8. Support Your Training with Good Nutrition
Any sports or health professional knows exercise is only half of the equation: what you put in your body matters a lot, too.
Drink plenty of water during and after your workout, and eat nutritious meals that balance healthy fats, proteins and carbs.
9. Make Recovery a Priority
Give your body what it needs to recover in between training. Eat well, get good sleep, do plenty of stretching, and take rest days to avoid overtraining. Athletes should also take time between seasons to recover and prevent injuries.
The Bottom Line
Don’t underestimate the importance of listening to your body, resting when you need it, and consulting fitness professionals in your training and exercise program. Injury prevention in fitness is key to a healthy, pain-free body at all stages of life!