Injuries are not fun. I remember one summer when I was a kid and broke my arm. All of my friends were playing baseball and swimming. Not me. Recently, a fellow athlete confided in me and said, “Racing is killing me.” Did he keep getting injured during races? “No, it’s the training. The training is killing me, and I keep tearing stuff in my shoulder.”
From a broken arm to a recurring “tear,” injury means your body has to take time off to repair itself. Think of it this way: if your body is focused on repair, it is not focused on getting stronger.
Being injured means you are not progressing in terms of competing, which means you are probably not racing. Here are four tips for injury-proofing your body:
1. Your Training Should Not Harm You. If your training is hurting you, stop. Reassess. Way too many people think what does not kill you makes you stronger. Actually, in exercise, what does not kill you may slowly degenerate your body until it does injure you.
In exercise, injury often happens when you do too much, too fast, too soon. In other words, you put yourself at risk when your body has not earned the right to handle the demands of an exercise. Take your time progressing in your training. Advance in small increments, not leaps. Allow your body to slowly change and adapt.
2. Learn to Listen to Your Body. Become more mindful. Mindfulness should not be reserved just for yoga or Pilates. Mindless exercise may be dangerous, and more mindful exercise is more effective. How do you do this in practice?
· Assess whether an exercise feels appropriate for you on a given day
· Think about what you should be focusing on for each movement
· Remove distractions and slowdown as you start
· Focus on what your body is experiencing and on what is happening inside your body as you move
Be wise in your exercise selection. Do your research and consult with a qualified coach. The “trendy” exercise of the moment may not be a good choice for you.
3. Rethink Your Warm-Up. The static stretching you may have grown up with may not be helping you. According to research, static stretching opens you up to injury because it dampens your body’s awareness of itself. Plus, you’re not “warm” yet. Think of a rubber band that is immediately stretched too far. It’s bound to snap. At the very least, it is not doing what you think.
4. Rest. Arthur Jones, inventor of the Nautilus exercise machines, was correct when he said, “Exercise merely stimulates growth, it does not produce the growth. Changes that result from exercise are actually produced by the body itself. During rest.”
So, take a day off. Spend time with your family. Read a book from the Spartan Reads collection. Go for a walk and enjoy the moment. Put the electronics down and soak in the world around you.