5 Mindful Tips for Injury Prevention
I am definitely not a writer by any means. As an Osteopath, I see a number of patients who regularly undertake physical activity, particularly as a way of "switching off" from daily life and troubles. However, with anything, there are consequences. With physical activity, one consequence may be that 'feel good factor' when all the endorphins have kicked in, whilst another major consequence may be injury due to the inability to efficiently strike a balance between hard work and recuperation. Here are 5 injury preventing tips from a more mindful perspective:
1. Listen to your body.
Self-awareness has many dimensions. However, with regards to physical activity and training, you have to understand your body, its limits, and how it works in order to be able to achieve a productive, efficient and satisfying high.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is through pushing beyond our preconceived barriers (most of the times our mind) that we realise how much more we are capable of. However, in order to push beyond these barriers, you have to ask yourself whether your commitment, level of training and your physical health supports this. If you know, you know.
You wouldn’t think of getting up and running a marathon without training and expect no repercussions, right?
In the words of Mr PMA Faisal Abdalla, “honest training, honest results.”
Don't try to drive the car when you know you're on Empty, it'll probably do more harm than good!
2. Pace yourself by setting Targets.
Flowing along the concept of self-awareness, to ensure that you get the most out of your training and to prevent injury, you have to know why you are doing it in the first place. What would you like to get out of it at the end of the session? At the end of 6 weeks? 6 months?
Your targets have to be:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Attainable
R - Realistic
T - Timed
This approach provides a benchmark, so you don’t end up feeling overwhelmed if you fall off track. You should be able to quickly get up, brush yourself off, refocus and get back on it.
However, through the panic of falling off track, we often try to play catch up and throw in increased efforts, leading to sloppy training patterns and form, which subsequently predisposes us to potential injuries. Personally, I don't think it’s worth it.
Breathe, accept what is, recollect yourself, then carry on with the good stuff.
To complete the #verticalmilechallenge @ BXR London, my SMART target was ensuring I was climbing between 165 - 180ft DISTANCE/MIN. Lord knows that was the only way I could get through it. Breaking things down... counting 4 sets of 3 instead of 0 - 12!
3. Rest - Not just sleep, but chill time!
I am absolute rubbish when it comes to obeying strict bed times (something I am constantly trying to improve), but when it comes to doing very little physical activity, I’m your guy!
There is currently a vast amount of research highlighting the numerous benefits of exercise on one’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. However, Ranglin (1990) emphasised in a study that,
“for healthy individuals the principal psychological benefit of exercise may be that of prevention, whereas in those suffering from mild to moderate emotional illness exercise may function as a means of treatment… some individuals can become overly dependent on physical activity and exercise to an excessive degree. This abuse of exercise can result in disturbances in mood and worsened physical health.”
With the massive boom in the health and fitness industry over the last couple of years, to hear this take on overtraining from back in the day should hopefully provoke you a bit.
If your life is a constant battle of a high stressed work place, constant thoughts, quick meals, quick and intense workouts, no time to relax and interact with people or nature, no time to truly switch off…you’ve got a sympathetic storm brewing inside that is waiting to strike!
Therefore, even though I am told most times that exercise is their way of releasing stress, I always recommend to patients that they try to engage in a low-intensity, down time activity such as a bath, a long slow walk, a slow swim, reading, yoga etc. This is because when high intensity activities are maintained over a long period of time, it often causes your body/muscles to be more achy, sensitive and jumpy due to the constant input from the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) which does its job by keeping your body on edge in fight/flight mode. However, it is not very healthy to be in a state of fight or flight for an extended period if it isn't necessary. This often leads to injury, or a physiological disruption within the body such as IBS, shortness of breath, panic attacks, insomnia etc.
Hopefully, hopefully everyone knows how amazing sleep is, so I won’t go into that… at least not today.
4. Fuel yourself with the right ingredients.
Following up from the above-mentioned, you have to ensure that you equip yourself with the right building blocks.
Therefore, along with rest, ensure that you are eating the right amounts and the appropriate meals to power and sustain your levels of activity. I am no nutritionist, but if you think of pumping Diesel into an Unleaded Car, it’s probably not going to end well. Therefore, consult a nutritional professional or do some simple old Google, incorporate a trial and failure approach and take it from there in order to establish what foods they should be consuming and in what portions. This is because consuming the right foods will ensure your body has the right tools for growth and repair.
One also has to ensure they fuel themselves with the right attitude towards the physical activity they choose to pursue. I’m sure most people can relate to showing up at the gym sometimes feeling crap, then feeling a lot better after a workout. However, if this is a constant battle and your heart isn’t in it, you shouldn’t be doing it long term. Find something else that you are passionate about. You have to have a driving force behind why you’re doing it, even if its vanity…. though this tends to be short-lived most times. Your dislike for an activity that you pursue long term may make you quite a sour person, do it for you, because you thoroughly enjoy it!
Also, there is a lot of good in setting yourself up with the right mental attitude and support group, whether it be your gym buddy, a particular class or trainer … or playlist! They will definitely keep you focused and pumped throughout your training/activity. This will definitely boost morale and performance!
5. Manual/Alternative Therapies (Or just come see me ;)
Finally, one of the biggest aspects of injury prevention is incorporating some sort of physical therapy to relieve maintained muscular and neurological tensions throughout the body. This will help to desensitise muscular tissues, increase blood circulation and healing, and increase the body's capacity to perform.
These could be anything from independent interventions such as Foam Rolling, Stretching, Baths, Saunas/Steam. Or, you could consult a manual clinician such as myself, an Osteopath, or a Physiotherapist, Massage Therapist, Chiropractor, Sports Therapist, Acupuncturist, the list goes on.
All the above-mentioned would have been trained to alleviate muscular aches and tensions to some extent. It is definitely safe to say there may be different philosophies and varying degrees of knowledge and specialism amongst the professions, however you have to ensure you find the therapy which works best for you. This may be through trial and error, as unfortunately there are clinicians out there who abuse their expertise and manipulate and mismanage patients. However, when you’ve found the right one, you'll know.
If you are curious about Osteopathy, what it is that an Osteopath does, have an injury or are looking to be proactive about your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd be happy to chat. Really :).