It’s that time of year again when people attempt to get up and out, get active and to work off the excesses of the party season. The sudden surge in unaccustomed and new exercise coincides with increasing attendances at physiotherapy clinics across the country, as keen new exercisers pick up the inevitable injuries associated with getting fit and active once again. Here are four pointers to ensure you can remain injury free this New Year.
1. Start Slowly
You’re body is about to start exercising for the first time in weeks or longer for some people. It’s going to be sore and you are going to suffer with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after you begin to exercise. Muscle soreness after new or unaccustomed exercise usually lasts 24-72 hours. Although you won’t do any damage by exercising again while your muscles remain sore it’s unlikely that you’ll feel much like exercising during this time. This will be an early set back for you so it’s best advised to start slowly and build up your exercise gradually.
2. Invest in Appropriate Footwear and Equipment
The New Year rush to get exercising often leads to people making foolish decisions with their exercise attire. Appropriate footwear is essential whether you plan to do your training in the gym or running out doors. Your knees, hips, shins and lower back will not thank you for merely donning a pair of casual runners and starting into a 10 mile run. You may get away with this once or twice but over a sustained period it will lead to injuries. Running is a relatively low cost sport to get started in but the very least you can do is invest in an appropriate pair of runners from the beginning and look to limit the potential for injury from day one. A high proportion of injuries in runners new to the sport can be traced back to inappropriate footwear. Don’t be one of these people.
3. Warm-up, Stretch and Warm-Down
It seems obvious but people new to exercise don’t have an appropriate awareness of the importance of an injury prevention routine which includes warm-up, stretch and warm-down components. Stretching in particular is critical in injury prevention and should always be performed after exercise. Muscle shortening or tightening which may occur due to bouts of training in quick succession can lead to injuries. Stretching, even on non-training days, is essential to halting this process.
4. Don’t Ignore Niggles
Many patients, particularly those new to sports, attend clinics complaining of injuries which started months ago at a very low level but “they thought it’d settle” so it was ignored and now it’s a much greater problem. The problem with this type of patient is that the injury, had it been treated in the beginning is invariably something very easy to remedy but by leaving it for several months it has developed into something much more chronic and will take longer to treat.
As a general rule I usually recommend if you’ve given an injury two weeks rest and if it persists it’s better to get it checked out. One visit to a chartered physiotherapist in the beginning may save you several a few months later! Happy exercising!