Christmas is now a distant memory and thoughts invariably turn to getting in shape and becoming more active to work off the excesses of the festive season.  We’re dedicating our first blog of 2014 to advising newbie exercisers on remaining injury free this New Year.  Here are our Top 5 Tips to ensure you have a truly Happy and injury free New Year.

1.     Invest a little in appropriate equipment

A common mistake amongst novices when they decide to get active is that they fail to invest a little in the appropriate equipment for their new activity.  Appropriate equipment is an essential initial defence against injury.  Running is perhaps one of the most common activities for people to attempt in the New Year.  It’s a relatively low cost, low barrier exercise to commence.  Although the initial costs of starting to run are low, you don’t need gym membership or too much by way of equipment or clothing, it’s advisable to invest a little in a decent quality pair of running shoes.

Many a New Year’s running enthusiast has landed at physio clinics come February to realise their shin, ankle or knee problem stems from their running in completely inappropriate runners.  A little investment now could save you a deal of expenses down the line.

2.     Start Slowly

When we start to do new, unaccustomed or higher intensity exercise than we’ve been used to we develop muscle soreness (known as DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness) in the 48 hours after that exercise.  For most individuals who’ve spent 3 weeks over Christmas watching Harry Potter and Indiana Jones and eating Roses, the threshold for development of significant muscle soreness will be quite low.

DOMS, in and of itself, is not harmful and there’s certainly no long term consequences of the condition but it will be demotivating and result in you not feeling like exercising again so soon, which isn’t ideal.  If you start slower and build up gradually the effect of DOMS will be minimised and you can hopefully have a relatively pain free return to exercise.

3.     Stretch

As you get increasingly into exercise stretching becomes essential.  A run a week isn’t going to necessitate much stretching but if sessions are more intensive stretching is good practice in terms of injury prevention.  When individuals begin to exercise up to 3-4 sessions per week, muscles simply don’t have the recovery time to restore themselves to their natural resting muscle length.  The healing of micro-trauma to muscle fibres post exercise results in muscle contraction and shortening.  Failure to address this with stretching will ultimately lead to chronic injury.

4.     Set Goals

Both from a motivational and an injury prevention point of view it’s essential that the novice exerciser sets goals for their training.  Motivationally, having clearly defined milestones assists with getting you out and doing the sessions.  An event, race or activity to aim towards can help immensely towards this end.  Also from an injury prevention perspective, clearly defined goals can help avoid over training at certain periods and can result in a more scheduled and regular training timetable which should prevent injuries developing.

5.     Don’t neglect Niggles

All too often patients attend physiotherapy clinics and say that their injury started 6 or 8 weeks ago but that they thought it would go away.  Consequently they attend clinics following 8 weeks or so of the factors causing the injury not having been addressed.  Usually by this stage a more comprehensive programme of physiotherapy is necessary to treat the injury and to address the factors predisposing to the condition.

Often situations like this can be avoided if the injury is seen to shortly after it arises and can be remedied much earlier facilitating a quicker return to exercise.

Hopefully these tips can help you to remain injury free into 2014 but for the inevitable knocks, niggles and aches we’re always on hand at Laurel Lodge Physiotherapy to answer a question or to assess and treat your injury concerns.  Wishing all our all our clients and patients a happy and healthy New Year!