Pain can arise from a number of reasons. Doing too much, too soon does not allow muscles to adapt to their new demands. Pain is the result, and the brain’s way of saying slow down. When we continue to ignore pain the result is injury. Injuries quickly lead to lack of motivation, and before you know it you are back on the couch.
Maintain those good intentions but consider ways you can avoid pain. Below are my top 10 tips for staying injury free this year. Try them out and good luck on your health and fitness journey!
1. Foam Roll – Just like it sounds it is a roll of foam, which can purchased at local sporting good stores. Foam rollers allow you to perform self massage on sore muscles at home. Foam rollers not only prevent injuries and decrease pain but improve circulation, flexibility and mobility!
2. Sleep – Every year thousands of studies are published on the benefits of sleep. Sleep reduces stress, decreases body fat and prevents injury. Sleep is where your body gets to repair itself. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep a night. If you are having problems sleeping GET HELP! Stress, caffeine and allergies can all be causing you to toss and turn at night.
3. Stretch Correctly – Although stretching is very beneficial it can cause injury when performed incorrectly. Question why you do the stretches you do. If stretching makes your pain or injury worse, they are probably not for you. To get the correct stretches you should consult a qualified health care professional.
4. Resistance training – Building muscle is equally as important as cardiovascular health. Muscles help support joints, burn fat and prevent disease. Lifting weights will also improve confidence and decrease injury. Keep in mind using the treadmill, bike or elliptical as your sole means of exercise can actually cause the body to hold onto fat!
5. Vitamin D and Omega-3 Fish Oil – Maybe the two most important supplements on the planet. Vitamin D supports the immune system, prevents disease, and is great for bone health. Fish oil is vital for heart health, mental health and is a natural anti-inflammatory. Although beneficial be sure to consult your physician before taking these supplements.
6. Break position – For those with neck and back pain, be sure to change your position. Try not to sit at your desk staring at the computer screen for extended periods of time. I recommend changing position every 15 minutes. Get up, move around or have a quick stretch. Set an alarm if you have too, it will go a long way when dealing with back, shoulder and neck pain.
7. Single leg training – Try and perform your exercises on one leg instead of two this year. Single leg training forces you to work on balance. The majority of injuries in the body happen because of side to side imbalances.
Try this! Elevate one foot on the back of a chair. Keeping the arms by your side, squat down onto the front leg only, controlling your descent through the front heel. Be sure that the knee does not drift towards the midline. Be mindful of this exercise if you have existing knee or hip injuries. Perform 4-8 times, take a break and switch legs.
8. Stay mobile – Mobility exercises are a great of improving range of motion. Many injuries are caused when joints of the body do not move freely. For those of you that sit at a desk, here is an exercise to help with your mid back pain.
Lie on your side with your top hip and knee flexed to 90 degrees, and the knee supported on a pillow. With the bottom arm supporting the neck, place the top hand on the knee. Keeping the neck relaxed, move the top arm above the head at a 45 degree angle. Breathe out as you go feeling the mid back twist and relax. Return to the starting position, repeat 15 repetitions, take a break and perform twice more.
9. Core stability – For those of you suffering from back and hip pain have someone develop a specific core stability program for you. Many people think that core strength is all about sit ups. Core stability is much more complex, and sit ups can often be the cause of back pain!
Try this! Begin on all fours with the neck and low back in a neutral position. Flex one arm up towards the ceiling, while simultaneously extending the opposite leg back behind you. Be sure to keep the neck, back, arms and legs in a straight line. Do not allow the torso to twist. Return to the starting position slowly and controlled. You can perform 6-10 repetitions, take a break and perform twice more.
10. Quit smoking – My last tip but certainly not least. With all of the negative side effects of smoking comes and inability to heal. If you are suffering from chronic pain especially in the back or neck, quitting can make a huge difference. Smoking increases sensitivity of the nervous system, our control center for pain and healing.