Having been a professional athlete for most of my life I have suffered several injuries. Broken ankles, torn shoulder, chronic wrist pain. The list goes on. But whether you are a professional athlete or just an active person, there is always a risk of injury. Most of this doesn’t come from obvious risks like falling over or mishandling weights, but from muscle strain (something that I am very very familiar with). If you’re experienced muscle strain before, you know it can greatly hold back your fitness potential and keep you out of the gym for weeks. Here are some ways to prevent it.
Recover and recuperate
First of all, if you’re currently healing from a strain, you should make sure that you recover fully from it before you get back into working out. You can help your road to recovery with the help of things like massage therapy and a physiotherapist. You should pay attention to your delayed onset muscle soreness, as well. It doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong, but not giving yourself the time you need to relax and recover between workouts can put way too much pressure on your muscles.
If you jump right into working out intensely, then you are very likely to end up pulling something. Have a full workout routine that starts with a series of full-body stretches. You should stretch your body more thoroughly before working out than after. Some light warmups to help your muscles get limber and flexible are going to be crucial, as well.
Wear the right gear
Well-fitting gear that allows for a good range of motion is crucial in preventing all ranges of musculoskeletal injuries. If your clothes are too tight, then you’re working against your clothes as well as against your own body’s lack of agility. I learned this the hard way when I was training for my first half marathon. A good pair of fashionable leggings does more than making your thighs look great. They can aid in both strain prevention and even in recovering from existing strains.
Feed your muscles
Most people who work out are very used to the idea that nutrition is key to staying healthy. In most cases, you might think that this means upping your protein intake. Protein does help your muscles rebuild after the natural wear of exercise, but you should also try incorporating potassium-rich foods into your diet, as well. Potassium, which can be found in things like avocados and bananas, can help prevent the muscle fatigue that leads to more easily straining them.
Slow it down
Sometimes my body just tells me it needs a little time out. That doesn’t mean a day completely off, but maybe just a less intense workout. If you have been pushing yourself super hard lately, then you should think about taking it a little slower. This doesn’t mean that you should skip a workout (unless you’re in need of the extra recovery), but that you should try lighter workouts you can do at home, instead. Having lighter workout days and more intense workout days is a part of most training programs, and only working out at the highest intensities is going to put you at a greater risk of a tear or strain.
When in doubt, you should listen to your body. If your muscles feel too taut or in any way “weird” or have sharp, shooting pains, it’s time to take a rest.
Here is to staying healthy, active, and pain free