Skyrocketing gym enrollments are common after the new year as people try to adhere to their resolutions to lose weight or to get in shape. Many new enrollees quickly give up on their resolutions, citing common sports injuries, such as sore hips and knees or backaches, as an excuse for not continuing with an exercise program. If you are committed to keeping your new year’s resolution, you can take a few simple steps to ensure that you are not sidelined by a sports injuries.
You have probably received this advice from multiple sources, specifically, you should not start an exercise regimen without stretching those muscles that may not have been stressed for several months. Take a few minutes at the beginning of your exercise program to do light calisthenics (e.g. running in place, or jumping jacks) to get some blood flow into your muscles, and then stretch those muscles for at least five minutes. If you have limited time to exercise, you will be better able to prevent injuries if you spend a few minutes of that time to stretch, and then shortening your actual exercise time.
Don’t Ignore Your Core
Your body’s primary source of strength and stability is in its core. Whether you are golfing, throwing a ball, skiing, swimming, or running, your movements begin in your core and translate out to your limbs. Spend some time once or twice a week to do a few core-strengthening exercises. If you concentrate all of your exercise in your limbs and extremities but do nothing about your core, you will place too much stress on your joints when they overcompensate for your weak core.
Mix It Up
If your new year’s goal is to run a 10K, do more than just run. Running more than three or four days per week will put undue stress on your knees and hips and will increase your risks of injuring those joints. Take a day off between runs and lift weights or do yoga or extended stretching exercises. The same holds true for whatever exercise program you decide to follow. If you do the same thing every day, you will hit a plateau in your fitness level and will expose yourself to greater injury risks.
Massage the Knots in Your Muscles
You should expect to feel some degree of muscle soreness when you begin your new year’s exercise program. As you rub your sore muscles, you may notice small knots or hard spots that are painful to rub or massage. Exercise will cause micro-tears in your muscle tissue, and that tissue may bind and tighten up as it heals itself. You can avoid sports injuries by massaging those knots and breaking up the tissue binding. You do not need to commit to expensive or time-consuming massages (although massage is great if you do have the time and money for it). Get an inexpensive foam roller, or use a tennis ball to rub out the knots and painful spots in your muscles. You can even do this in the evening while watching television or shortly before you go to sleep.
Give Yourself a Break
There is often a fine line between being hurt and being injured. If you push yourself in an exercise program even slightly, you will feel some soreness and hurt for several hours afterwards. If the pain continues for a few days, if you have trouble sleeping, and you are losing all motivation to continue exercising, do not feel guilty about taking a day or two off. Get right back to your program as soon as you can, however, because one or two days of down time can easily turn into several days or weeks.