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Exercise without the injuries

Posted by Be Well

Exercise is a great way of keeping your body in shape and staying healthy - but it can also be painful and demotivating if you injure yourself.

Make sure that you know what you're doing before you launch in.

Knowing your body

The last thing we want to do is put you off of exercise with talk of injuries - as we said before, it has amazing body benefits. But before you sprint off into the sunset, take a moment to learn a little more about your body first.

There are over 600 muscles in the human body, which support and work alongside over 200 bones. Depending on the type of exercise you are doing, you could be using hundreds of muscles at any one time.

Your body is an impressive system that needs care and maintenance, just like a car engine. For example, when you exercise, your muscles need oxygen to use as fuel. Your heart beats faster and your lungs work harder to supply oxygenated blood to your muscles.

Warming up and stretching

Some of the most common sports injuries are muscle sprains and strains. Hamstring muscle tears alone account for 10-15% of all sports injuries. This is why you should always warm up properly before every exercise session. You can warm up by walking or slow jogging.

Once you've warmed up you can stretch your muscles. Your muscles are a bit like elastic bands. If you stretched an elastic band as far as you could, it would snap.

However, if you started stretching the elastic band slowly and gradually increased the stretches, it would stay intact. Similarly, when you stretch your muscles, it increases blood flow and prepares them to be used.

Take around 5-10 minutes to warm up and stretch.

Take around 5-10 minutes to warm up and stretch, making sure to concentrate on the areas of the body you will use the most.

For example, if you're going to be running, focus the majority of your stretches on the leg muscles, ankles, and feet. However, even if you are running, don't forget to stretch muscles like your neck and shoulders. These areas are worked, even if you don't necessarily feel them.

Hold each stretch for about 5-10 seconds and don't bounce into them, as this can damage the muscle.

Start slowly

Always start exercising at a slow pace - don't rush straight into a sprint. As well as risking muscle strain, you will also run out of energy far quicker than if you start slowly and build up your pace gradually. This is especially important if you haven't exercised in a while because your body won't be used to the physical demands of exercise.

Your body is very responsive, so listen to it. If you feel pain, stop exercising.

Your body is very responsive, so listen to it. If you feel pain, stop exercising. It your body's way of telling you that something is wrong. Rest and only go back to exercising when you feel you are able to.

Treating sprains and strains

Sprains, strains and inflammation can be treated by easing off exercise for a while and using the RICE technique. RICE stands for:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

Resting the affected area is important, as it gives the damaged muscles time to heal.

Ice, compression, and elevation all help to stop the swelling that occurs after injury. Remember to cover any ice packs with a towel before applying to the affected area. Compression bandages can be bought from pharmacies.

Poor technique

Some strains and injuries can be caused by bad posture or poor technique.

For example, when running, you should make sure that you don't lean backwards, as this can cause lower back strain. To avoid this, keep your pelvis levelled by lightly tightening your lower stomach muscles as you run.

Some strains and injuries can be caused by bad posture or poor technique.

To avoid straining your neck while you run, don't crane forward. Your neck and jaw should be relaxed. If you find you are grinding your teeth, then your jaw and neck are too tense.

To avoid neck strain while doing sit ups, don't place your hands behind your head and push it up. Instead, touch your fingers to your ears with your elbows out to the sides. Then slowly raise your shoulders and head off the floor, using your stomach muscles and not your neck. Make sure to keep your chin pointed upwards and not buried into your chest.

For the runners

If you are a keen runner, you may sometimes experience an uncomfortable feeling in your knees, especially if you run on roads. This is known as runner's knee. It is when the back of your kneecap becomes inflamed and causes a grating feeling. It is not necessarily due to poor technique but is caused by the high impact of running on concrete.

If you run on the roads, make sure you have a good pair of training shoes that cushion the impact.

Alternatively, you could try running on grass instead, which absorbs the impact better than concrete.

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