everyone who made a resolution to be fit is starting to see a
difference. That said, if someone has been pretty sedentary, and he or
she jumps into a new fitness program too quickly, overuse injuries can
occur. Understanding how to pace yourself while getting fit is key.
Overuse injuries and common causes
Overuse injuries can be any type of muscle or joint injury like bursitis, tendonitis, or stress fractures that are caused by repetitive trauma. Overuse injuries are usually caused by:
- Biting off more than you can chew.
Most of us have seen reality programs where morbidly obese people lose
exorbitant amounts of weight and/or become superior athletes in a very
short amount of time. These programs can be very inspirational, which is
great, but you need to take these transformations with a grain of salt.
When you take on too much physical activity too quickly, you can hurt
yourself. Pushing too hard too soon or simply doing too much of one type
of physical activity can strain your body and lead to an overuse
- Bad form. Compensating for muscular weakness or performing an exercise improperly due to poor/inadequate training can wreak havoc on your body. For example, using momentum while strength training or swinging a golf club with a hitch may overload certain muscles and cause overuse injuries.
Avoiding overuse injuries
The fear of overuse injuries should not prevent you from exercising. Done sensibly, exercise will add many happy and healthy years to your life. Here are some commonsense ways you can avoid overuse injuries:
- Get a physical BEFORE you start exercising. I have
run, cycled, and swam for years, and I still get checked out before
starting new endeavors. You may have muscular imbalances or medical
conditions that can make you predisposed to developing an overuse
- Consider using a personal trainer. Using the
correct technique is crucial to preventing overuse injuries. You may
have muscular imbalances you need to correct due to shortfalls in
flexibility and strength from inactivity or a previous injury. A good,
certified personal trainer can help you begin a new, safe exercise
regimen. If you have weak hips, for example, your trainer can show you
exercises to address the problem and prevent knee pain.
- Use new/well-maintained shoes. When your shoes wear
down, you don’t get the proper support, and this can contribute to
overuse injuries. Runners should replace their shoes every 300-500
miles. I keep mine in their boxes and log the mileage on the outside to
keep an accurate “running tally” of the mileage accumulated.
Additionally, don’t wear your fitness shoes when you aren’t exercising.
You wear them out more quickly this way.
- Consider the tortoise and the hare. Easing into
your new fitness routine/training will help you continue to stay active
for years to come. Don’t try to do too much too soon, and definitely
don’t try to do an entire week’s worth of exercise during a two-day
weekend. Beginners should shoot for at least two hours and 30 minutes of
moderate activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity over
the course of a week.
- You aren’t in high school anymore. As we age,
warming up, cooling down, and stretching afterwards become more
important. Your body isn’t the same as it was “back in the day.” A
warm-up of 5 to 10 minutes and a static stretching routine for 5 to 10
minutes at the end of the hour will do wonders for avoiding injuries.
Additionally, you may not be able to do the same activities that you did
years ago. Consider ways to modify activities to fit your present
- Gradually increase your activity level. When
changing your activity level or the amount of weight you’re using while
strength training, keep it gradual — such as increases of no more than
10 percent each week until you reach your new goal.
- Try a tri. Done correctly, triathlon training is a perfect balance of running, swimming, cycling, and core strength. What a perfect balance to make you really fit and avoid overuse injuries. Plus, triathlons are a blast! If you aren’t game for actually doing a triathlon, following a triathlon training program will give you a nice balance of different forms of cardio, strength, and flexibility.
It’s great to set new fitness goals; don’t let overuse injuries sideline you.