I wanted to write a few thoughts about injuries, and what steps you can take to prevent them.
Having an injury is, unfortunately, something that I have first-hand experience of, I had a few serious injuries whilst playing professional rugby, as well as many niggles, and so spent a lot of time ‘rehabbing’ and learning various things you can do to ease injuries and improve them.
Having an injury is really frustrating as it will hinder what you can do both at the gym and in your daily life. Injuries might not necessarily come from training - it might be a previous injury you have had that has flared up, a birth injury or an injury from everyday life/work. It goes without saying that sometimes you can injure yourself whilst training, this is why it is so important to focus on good form in any training session no matter what the intensity or duration is.
As a personal trainer, the most common injuries I see are knee and back injuries, but there are many different types of injuries that range right through to twinged muscles and soreness. I can’t stress the importance of a good warm-up and activation before embarking on any gym session or training!
My top tips to prevent injuries:
- Always perform warm-up and stretch, and activation – spend 5 minutes at least doing this before your training session, you can use static stretches, foam roller, mini band activation - work on the muscles you will be focussing on in your session to get them warmed up and ready to work!
- Try and stay active – outside of the gym, stay as mobile as possible. Try and walk as much as you can, take the stairs instead of the lift, etc. Especially relevant for anyone who has a sedentary office-based lifestyle.
- Don’t train if overtired / not feeling well - if you have been up all night with an unsettled baby or tired toddler, or have had a long day at work, or just generally feeling under the weather - be honest with yourself. Be kind to yourself too – don’t push going to the gym just for the sake of it or because you feel you should - if you don’t feel up to it you won’t have a satisfying session. If you do want to go be particularly mindful of your form if you are feeling a bit tired or not quite 100%.
- Focus on form and technique - this is crucial. Make sure you know what you are doing for each exercise, and how to perform it correctly. Protect your neck and back. Make sure you are in control of the movement and your range of motion is in check. Most injuries in the gym will be because someone’s form is off, so focus on yours 100% and not only will you be protecting yourself against injury but you will also reap the benefits with your results too.
- Ensure you stay hydrated! Even a slight dip in hydration can have a huge impact on your athletic performance. Keep yourself topped up with water and you will be able to perform better and hopefully avoid injury.
- Gym buddy – a gym buddy or training with a friend can be useful not only for confidence of going with someone else but they can look out for you – let you know if your form is off and help you if you need assistance with any weights or so on. Plus they will be an added motivation! Win-win.
- Cool down and stretch - this is often overlooked as people are in a rush to get out of the gym as soon as they have finished. Try and take 5 minutes to stretch – pigeon stretch, in particular, is great for the glutes - to give your muscles a head start on recovery and minimize muscle tightness. Look at it as a chance to relax too!
If you have sustained an injury: you have my sympathy! Here are a few things you can try to help:
- Stretch - as above – a good old stretch can really help. You don’t have to do this just at the gym. If you are feeling a bit sore or stiff do a good stretch session at home. There are loads of good real-time sequences on Youtube you can follow if you need inspiration - Shona Vertue’s channel is particularly good for stretching and mobility.
- Mobility - stay as mobile as possible to avoid seizing up. Try some light walking and taking the stairs instead of the lift, etc.
- Warm bath - this can help if you have muscle tightness - if you can add some magnesium bath salts that is even better – a hot water bottle on any tender muscles is also soothing.
- Sauna/steam room/ jacuzzi - again these can help with any muscle stiffness. Great if you have access to these as part of your gym membership and can tag it on to the end of a session every now and then. Very relaxing too.
- If you have any inflammation you can try applying ice to soothe it and reduce swelling.
- Nutrition – you can add extra doses of anti-inflammatory foods into your diet – this is good practice at all times but especially if you have sustained an injury. Try these:
- Fatty fish
- Green Tea
- Also, cod-liver oil tablets are good for joints
- Hydration - as mentioned above! Make sure you are drinking at least 2 litres a day.
- Sleep/ Rest - it seems obvious really but get as much rest and sleep as you can to help your body get itself repaired. Prioritise this until you are 100%!
- Be realistic about the time frame and severity – Don’t put pressure on yourself to bounce back from an injury but equally don’t hype it up too much either if it’s a minor ailment. Go with your gut instinct and see what feels right. You will know if you are overdoing it - be honest with yourself.
It goes without saying, but please seek help if you are ever in any doubt over anything to do with injuries - seek out a good physio or consult your GP. Never take any chances!