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6 tips to help prevent sports injury

There is nothing worse than putting a pause on your training due to injury. But we are here to help – read Dr Hamed's top tips for preventing sports injury.

During the coronavirus pandemic (back in 2020), lives took a turn and many people found new ways to exercise. Some have not returned to gyms after creating spaces at home to exercise in, whilst others are making the most of having a gym back in their life. 

Whether you are working out at home or making the most of the gym’s squat rack, the most important thing is that you are exercising in a safe way to help prevent injury.  

To help you out, we have put together six tips on how to prevent sports injury whilst taking your training to the next level.  

1. Don’t go from 0 to 100

Whether you are returning to exercise after a break or starting a new programme, a gradual build-up is key. Don’t delve straight into the intensity and frequency you think you can do - pushing yourself too far and too fast can lead to unwanted injury. 

Pushing yourself too hard can also lead to overtraining syndrome – a condition brought about by excessive training without necessary recovery.  

Once you’ve been doing the same exercise at a reduced intensity for a few weeks, and it feels like it is becoming too easy, up the ante and slowly scale up in weight or intensity. For example, if you’re lifting 10kg dumbbells for 15 reps, and you feel like you could keep going forever, it’s time to increase to the 12kg dumbbells. 

Consistency is more important than intensity when it comes to preventing injury. Consistently going out for a run at a steady pace three to four times a week will decrease your risk of injury compared to running two to three times a week at a higher intensity.  

2. Make time to warm-up

A warm-up is beneficial regardless of the type of exercise you are doing.  Make your warm-up last at least five to ten minutes before you start your activity [1]. 

Performing a warm-up prepares your body for exercise by slowly increasing your heart rate and circulation, which helps to loosen your joints and increase blood flow to your muscles. So, whether you are weightlifting, cycling, or running, ensuring you warm up will reduce your risk of acute injuries such as hamstring or calf strains. 

A warm-up not only prepares your body but also gives you a couple of minutes to mentally prepare yourself for the workout ahead. When your body is better able to handle the demands that exercise has on it, you can tackle new personal bests and quicker recovery times. 

3. Allow time for your body to recover

Opposite to a warm-up, a cool-down aims to lower your heart rate and allows your breathing to get back to normal. It also helps with the clearance of lactic acid, helping to aid recovery and prevent cramps and soreness. 

 Your cool-down period can last from three to ten minutes and depends on how many stretches you perform and how long you hold each one.  

A cool-down doesn’t always consist of solely stretches, sometimes a lighter exercise, such as a walk after a run, is a great way to get your heart rate down before you start stretching.  

It is important to also take rest days in between your exercise sessions, especially when you first start back after being away for a long period.  

There are two types of rest (or recovery) days [2]: 

  1. Active rest days 
  2. Passive rest days

On a passive rest day, you are recommended to take the entire day off from exercise to give your muscles, nerves, bones, and connective tissue time to rebuild.  

On an active rest day, you should keep your step count to around 10,000 or perform a calm and relaxing exercise that stretches your body, such as yoga or pilates.  

Recovery doesn’t just take place during the day either, sleep also plays an important part. When you sleep, your body is in a state of anabolism and repair. Alongside spikes of hormones (such as growth hormone and testosterone), sleep can help aid recovery and prevent injury. 

4. Work on your technique

One of the most common causes of sports injury listed on the NHS website is poor technique. 

When performing a new exercise, it is best for a professional to guide you so that you continue with the correct technique.  It is also recommended to start slowly when running, or on lower weights when strength training.  

Once your technique is safe, you can then run faster and increase weight. But making sure your form is correct (and never pushing yourself beyond your safe technique) will be more beneficial in the long run than heavier weights and faster times in the short term. 

5. Eat well to fuel your workouts

Getting your nutrition spot on before your training sessions will give you more energy to hit the speed or intensity you want and help kick-start your recovery after your sessions. 

Eating carbohydrates and drinking plenty of water two hours before you exercise can help to fuel your workouts [3].  

Foods to eat before you work out include: 

  • Oats 
  • Pasta 
  • Rice 
  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables 

Try to avoid saturated fats, such as cakes and biscuits before you exercise as these can take longer to digest and may cause unwanted digestive symptoms. 

Post-workout, it is recommended to add electrolytes to your water to help replenish water, electrolytes, and glycogen stores.  Alongside hydrating, protein post-workout aids repair and growth in your muscles and works together with pre-workout carbohydrates to reduce the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) [4], [5].  

6. Test yourself

Blood testing can give insight into your general health, as well as your muscle health and nutrition.  

With our Ultimate Performance Blood Test, you can test numerous biomarkers including: 

  • Kidney, liver, and muscle health  
  • Key vitamins (that if deficient can cause an array of symptoms that can affect training) 
  • Hormones  

Creatine kinase (included in our muscle health biomarker profile) and the testosterone: cortisol ratio can give you an indication of whether you are overtraining.  

Once you have taken our Ultimate Performance Blood Test, you are given your results with doctor’s comments and advice. You can work alongside these results to make health and lifestyle changes that can both prevent injury and better your performance.  

This is a great test to also establish your baseline as it can help you monitor any changes you may be making and seeing the improvements of your lifestyle changes can help motivate you further.  

To help find the right test for you, try our test finder.

References 

  1.  Harvard Health. 2022. Exercise 101: Don't skip the warm-up or cool-down - Harvard Health. [online] Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercise-101-dont-skip-the-warm-up-or-cool-down#:~:text=Warming%20up%20pumps%20nutrient%2Drich,then%20pick%20up%20the%20pace.> [Accessed 12 May 2022]. 
  2. Verywell Fit. 2022. Why Athletes Need Rest and Recovery After Exercise. [online] Available at: <https://www.verywellfit.com/the-benefits-of-rest-and-recovery-after-exercise-3120575#:~:text=There%20are%20two%20types%20of,passive%20recovery%20and%20active%20recovery.> [Accessed 12 May 2022].  
  3. Trifectanutrition.com. 2022. Pre Workout Meals: What and When to Eat Before the Gym. [online] Available at: <https://www.trifectanutrition.com/blog/pre-workout-meals-what-and-when-to-eat-before-the-gym> [Accessed 12 May 2022]. 
  4. lose GL, Ashton T, Cable T, et al, Effects of dietary carbohydrate on delayed onset muscle soreness and reactive oxygen species after contraction induced muscle damage,British Journal of Sports Medicine 2005;39:948-953.[Accessed 12 May 2022]. 
  5. Thesportsdietitian.co.uk. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.thesportsdietitian.co.uk/post/can-nutrition-help-doms> [Accessed 12 May 2022].