Zen & M’s: Treating and preventing injury
The Wednesday before holiday break, I went to yoga class just as I would any other week. At the end of the class, I put my legs up for shoulder stance, and then proceeded to flip them over my head for plow. Nothing seemed fishy to me at the time, but when I woke up, I had a strange pain in my lower back.
Lucky for me, my mother is a doctor, and she was able to tell me exactly what I pulled: my sacroiliac joint, and that I could still work out — which was really all I wanted to hear anyway. She further advised me to ice my back, avoid plow and take it easy. This last piece of advice was not something I was thrilled to hear.
Taking it easy for me is very difficult — I love working out, and I hate sitting still. But the overwhelming lethargy that I felt during my first workout after pulling my joint, made it clear that I needed rest.
Today, I fully recovered from my plow-gone-wrong, and I have been able to workout during the entire healing process. That being said, I don’t want to re-injure anything, and I don’t want any of you to get injuries, either.
Anyone can get an injury, and sometimes accidents happen. But, they’ll occur less if we know the proper prevention methods.
First and foremost, make sure you warm up before every workout and cool down after every workout. When I warm up, I do some light stretching and five minutes on a light intensity on the adaptive motion trainer, but you can really do five minutes on any machine. Cooling down is not something I’m good at, because at the end of my workout I’m so excited to get home and read Game of Thrones, but it’s part of my New Year’s Resolutions to just relax and enjoy five minutes going light.
Also, ease into your individual workouts and your workout routines. Don’t go too hard at the beginning of each session, and definitely don’t go too hard if it’s a new routine; discover your limits and listen to your body.
The other, and in my opinion, the most important injury prevention method is cross training. Switching up the exercises you do and what you do each day will help you hit more muscle groups and also allow all of your muscles the proper time to rest. This is where my split routine comes in handy — I can let my arms and legs rest while I work my shoulders and back and vice versa.
If you go to a gym, you should consider talking to a trainer, too. Most gyms give a first session with a personal trainer away free, but if you don’t have that luxury, be brave and make new friends! No one wants you to get hurt (hello, lawsuit), so if you’re unsure about a machine or the proper technique to do an exercise, just ask a question.
This brings me to my next three points: form, form and more form. Many exercises don’t pose serious threats to your body unless you do them incorrectly. People often do ab exercises incorrectly, for instance, because they don’t tighten their belly enough and push their back into the ground, putting too much pressure on their back. I actually made this mistake for a long time before I started to attend classes where I regularly was told not to shelf out my back.
Make sure you’re properly equipped with gear as well as technique. I recently got a new pair of sneakers, and I am so excited to break them in and make a fitness fashion statement. I’m more excited, though, to start doing cardio knowing my legs are protected, however. You should replace your gym sneakers every six to 12 months.
Don’t forget to listen to your body. If you feel pain (and not the good kind of pain), stop! Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something’s wrong.
Should you feel the bad pain and actually get hurt, think of the acronym RICE. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevate. Rest essentially means restricting movement. Once you feel the bad pain, give yourself a break. Icing injuries is probably something we’re all familiar with, but the reason we do it is because it helps stop internal bleeding that causes swelling by narrowing blood vessels. I read to ice 10 minutes on and 5-10 minutes off, but my pediatrician mother has told me 15 minutes on 15 minutes off, so I’m going to go with that, personally. You should do this for the first 24-36 hours after the injury occurs and make sure you wrap the ice in a cloth or towel so that you don’t freeze your skin! Compression bandages are your next step. Just make sure that the bandage isn’t too tight; if you can’t feel your fingers or toes, it’s too tight. Lastly, elevate the injured area. Elevation reduces internal bleeding and helps alleviate pain.
Mild workout injuries will generally heal themselves in four to six weeks. If it persists longer than that, you should call a doctor. But once you are healed, it will take a few weeks to get back to your previous fitness level, so don’t push yourself too hard. The last thing you want is to injure yourself again!