Keen as mustard for the new triathlon season but worried about injury niggles? Dr Mike Loosemore suggests ten ways you can avoid injury before, during and after exercise.
1. Know your sport
It is important to know the demands of your sport before taking on new challenges.
2. Match training to readiness
Everybody starts from a different base line, so a person wanting to run the London Triathlon who works in a sedentary job and who hasn’t done any sport since they were a prop forward for the local third team will require a very different training regimen from a person who has ran all their life and has run a couple of marathons before.
3. Look after your kit
To avoid injury the selection and maintenance of the correct kit is vital. In endurance events where the same movement is repeated thousands of time the wrong shoes or a badly set up bike can quickly cause overuse injuries. Worn-out shoes can also lead to biomechanical and impact issues.
4. Invest in a coach
Having someone who can give you advice on training load and assist technically will help you avoid injury.
5. Invest in injury prevention
It is important that if you do get injured that you seek professional help quickly be that a soft tissue therapist, physiotherapist or a sports doctor. Before you see any professional it is important to check out their qualifications and experience.
6. Warm up
A recent survey by Nurofen Express Heat patches revealed that more than half of people never warm up before they exercise, and six in 10 don’t bother to warm down. Warming up should gently get your muscles to operating temperature and your joints through a full range of movement without stretching, that is without going beyond what is comfortable, time required to warm up will vary depending on what event you are under taking so a sprinter will require a longer warm up than an endurance athlete as there muscle will need to perform at maximum force from the gun.
7. Cool down: This allows the body to remove the waste products built up during exercise and so reduce muscle stiffness and also have the muscles in a better state of readiness before the next training session.
Tapering your training before your event allows the body not only to build up vital energy stores but also allows tissues the best chance to recover and repair so that you enter the competition in the best state possible.
9. Female Triad
Having enough energy when you train is important. In female athletes a chronic lack of energy can lead to periods stopping and bones becoming weak and prone to stress fractures. This is particularly important in women between the ages of 15 and 25 as a lot of bone is laid down during these years.
10. Treat injury early
It is better to treat injuries early rather than let them get worse or become chronic. Muscle strains and stiffness can be treated with alternative hot and cold, always starting and finishing on hot.
Consider a topical treatment such as heat patches which will warm the area and help to relax the muscle, whilst a topical gel is absorbed rapidly to get to work at the site of pain.
Joint and tendon injuries should be treated with Ice Compression and Elevation (ICE). If they have not improved after 48 hours then add a non steroidal anti inflammatory either directly as a cream of systemically as a tablet or capsule.
About the author: Dr Mike Loosemore is a consultant in sport and exercise medicine at University College London. He has previously been the Chief Medical Officer for the England Commonwealth Games team in New Delhi in 2010.