We have all heard the phrase “no pain, no gain” in one form or another. And yes, some pain and soreness is great for the body and expected as muscles continuously break down, rebuild and grow stronger, but too much pain may be your body’s indicator that something is terribly wrong.
As we welcome the beautiful summer months, athletes and fitness enthusiasts everywhere will begin to put this phrase to the test as training intensities are ramped up under the summer sun, which only means one thing—risk for overuse injuries.
Overuse injuries are caused by prolonged, repeated motions or impact, which causes muscles, joints or even bones to become irritated or inflamed. Knee problems, stress fractures, tendonitis, bursitis, Tennis Elbow and other common injuries can all be caused by intense training. People may experience a gradual or sudden onset of pain or intermittent pain, depending on the type of injury and severity, but no matter what, any overuse injury can definitely take a major toll on the body.
Overuse injuries can be downright annoying—yes, but be careful because these injuries can potentially become serious if they linger untreated. Here are some tips to help safeguard yourself from overuse injuries so you can continue to train and compete:
1. Play at the right skill level. It is always important to train or compete at the right skill level and build your way up to a more intense level. Don’t be afraid to join an intermediate or beginner level sports team or exercise group when starting out. For example, if you’re training for a marathon and are new to running, try joining a run/walk group to build up your training-base.
2. Warm-up, cool-down. No matter what activity you’re participating in, every workout regimen should include a proper five minute warm-up and cool-down period to elevate the heart rate and keep muscles warm and flexible to prevent injury. Try jogging for five minutes before a run or doing jumping jacks before a workout as part of a warm-up routine. After a swim workout, try swimming slowly and focus on stretching out your stroke for a nice, easy cool-down.
3. Wear appropriate gear. Make sure you wear sports gear that fits correctly and isn’t worn-out. For example, runners should replace their running shoes every 300 to 400 miles to avoid blisters and other injuries, like shin splints. Depending on your weekly mileage, that could be every 3 months!
4. Drink to prevent heat illnesses. It is important for people to stay hydrated to prevent muscle cramps and fatigue that can hinder performance, especially in the summer. More importantly, dehydration can become life-threatening if left untreated. Always remember to drink before, during and after a workout:
5. Cross train. Try playing multiple sports or participating in different activities or exercises to give your muscles and joints a break from doing the same motions respectively. If you play beach volleyball, try jogging, swimming or cycling as an alternative cardio workout to switch up your routine and build new muscles.
6. Don’t ignore pain. Listen to your body. If you feel pain, you should stop immediately before the problem gets worse. Take it slow. Try walking or stretching for a moment to pinpoint the exact spot of the pain. If the pain persists you should have your doctor check it out.
7. Rest, rest, rest. It is important to take care of injuries as soon as they happen. Many overuse injuries, if caught early, can be healed with rest and time off from the sport or activity. Untreated injuries can result in a prolonged recovery time, loss in range of motion, need for surgery or even permanent damage.
8. Get annual physicals. You should get a physical every year to detect any potential or existing overuse injuries, along with any other health issues.
9. Get some sleep. Hormones produced by your body are released during sleep to help aid in your body’s natural healing. It’s important to get the right amount of sleep (7 to 9 hours) to allow your body to repair itself naturally.
Whether you’re continuing your winter training, getting back into your work-out routine to get fit for swimsuit season or just training harder, faster and longer during the summer time, it’s important to know about overuse injuries, the risk they pose and ways to prevent these injuries from affecting you.
((This article was originally featured on Active))