Motivation is at an all time high. This is the year (again): ‘Couch to 5k’ programmes, attractive gym offers, adventure races, triathlons, your imminent return to team sport after retiring 5 years ago, another long distance endurance event to chalk off the list. We’re all in the same boat with personal goals whatever they may be (click here for previous post on principles of training). But with the uptake of a new exercise regime we are all also at an increased risk of injury. Here are my 5 tips to sensibly enter and progress through an exercise programme that suits you as well as help avoid an unwanted injury that could hamper your new year plans.
- Be Realistic. Maybe hold off jumping straight in and signing up to a boot camp or exercise class environment. If your baseline is zero this is the time for baby steps. Start by simply getting into the right habits; getting up slightly earlier, eating a better diet and making time for a walk every (or most) days. This can soon progress to higher level exercise but jumping straight into high intensity exercise may seem the better option but with limited mobility and poor exercise tolerance it will only be a matter of time before you are on the treatment table.
- Make room for some resistance training. Walking, running and cycling are great forms of aerobic exercise. Often people consider stretching as the best form of injury prevention. Wrong. Strength training has been shown to better than stretching for the prevention of overuse injury, the exact type of injury typically seen in the first few weeks of a new exercise programme (Laursen et al 2014). This applies to runners as well as older populations with strength and stability work reducing the incidence of falls in the elderly by as much as 30%. For more serous runners it has also been shown to improve performance making runners more efficient and robust. Whole body exercises such as squats and lunges as well as some upper body exercises are a great way to start before signing up to gym membership. A general rule of thumb would be to exercise 5 days per week with 2 of those days dedicated to some form of resistance training.
- Rest. Getting good quality sleep is something I personally struggle with and with poor sleep comes feelings of lethargy the following day. It can make it more difficult to get out and remain active and again can lead to increased risk of injury. Make sure you are also getting 2 days relative rest within the week, i.e. a break from your chosen activity.
- Monitor your effort. A great simple way to monitor load is rate your effort out of 10, 0 being no effort, 10 being maximal effort. This is called the RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) Scale, an evidence-based way to measure load and predict future injury. We currently use this with the Kildare Hurling team and it is a way to flag if someone is struggling with the current workload and if they maybe need additional time to recover before the previous session. Stressing the body again following an intensive bout of exercise before it is fully recovered increases the risk of injury.
- Enjoy it. You should be having fun during your chosen activity. This is where group exercises classes are most beneficial. Once happy with a foundation of basic fitness joining boot camp, circuit classes or running clubs can provide great motivation to keeping up your chosen routine. A supportive network of like minded people all striving for individual goals is a great space to be in.
For more information on any of the issues addressed throughout this article please contact Rob via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @mccabephysio, Facebook at McCabe Physiotherapy or visit http://www.mccabephysiotherapy.com
Rob McCabe MISCP
MSc (pre reg) Physiotherapy, BSc Sport Science and Health, MSc Sports Physiotherapy, PG Dip Orthopaedic Medicine
Orchard House, Moorefield Rd, Newbridge, Co. Kildare