Getting More Active? Follow these Simple Tips to Prevent Sports Injuries
Pushing gym memberships and fitness plans like gangbusters around the new year can seem somewhat manipulative with so many thinking about New Year’s resolutions. The bottom line, however, is that it works! Just go to any Planet Fitness in January to see for yourself.
If you have chosen to become more active this year, that’s fantastic! And if you are just starting to get more active and reading this in the middle of July, that is also fantastic! It doesn’t matter when you start trying to improve your health with exercise; the fact you are taking that step is something to celebrate.
That said, anytime someone intends to increase their level of activity—whether it be on a workout program, a running routine, or joining a sports league—the risk of a sports injury is ever present. In fact, the risk can be higher for people who are just setting out with new goals, and having a foot or ankle injury put those ambitions on hold so quickly can be particularly heartbreaking.
So if you are starting to up your game, go for it! But also keep sports injury prevention in mind. Here are some simple considerations to make before and during your workouts.
Have the Right Footwear
It can be awfully tempting to get going right away with your goals, but you should make sure you’re properly equipped before doing so.
For example, starting out on a running routine in a pair of standard sneakers is not the best thing for your feet. Running shoes are much better designed to take on the repetitive forces of your feet hitting the pavement, which helps prevent overuse injuries over time. Standard walking shoes just aren’t built to take as much impact.
And this goes for other activities as well! Basketball players should have basketball shoes. Football and baseball players should have the right cleats. A trained sporting goods store clerk will be able to help you find the best footwear for your ambitions!
Also, don’t think pulling out a pair of shoes from a few years ago is a good idea, either. Shoes that are old and worn down are much less likely to provide the support you need. At least have them checked out before using them.
Take Time to Warm Up and Cool Down
Some sports injuries, like sprains and traumatic fractures, tend to come from hard hits you can’t always predict or guard against. But many other injuries come from simply pushing your body too hard or too quickly without it being ready. This is where conditions such as Achilles tendinitis and stress fractures (hairline cracks on the surface of the bone) usually come from.
Conditioning your body is a big part of avoiding overuse injuries. If you take off full force from a relative state of rest, your body might not be ready to endure the sudden strain, leading to injury.
Taking some time to warm up before activity helps your body adjust to the demands you’re about to place upon it. A good warm-up will involve a few minutes of stretching (be mindful of potentially tight muscles like your calves), but also some more dynamic movements, like light jogging.
And when you are finished with a workout or game, take a few minutes to cool down on the tail end as well. This helps your body return to a resting state with less shock.
Push Within Your Limits
Exercise is all about improving and maintaining your body, and you can’t do that without pushing yourself. Our bodies literally get better by being broken down at a cellular level, then being given time to rebuild to a stronger state.
However, there is such thing as being too ambitious. It can open the door wider for sports injuries.
We previously mentioned the body’s need to warm up, but you can still injure yourself if you force your body beyond the current threshold it is conditioned to take. On the other hand, if you stay within your limits but simply don’t give enough time for your body to recover properly, you can keep breaking yourself down to the point of weakness and injury.
When you set personal goals for your workouts, be mindful of your current limits. As you increase your intensity, do so gradually—no more than 10 percent each week (you can measure this in time, distance, or weight). And if your body is telling you an increase is too much, do not be afraid to dial the increase back to something you can handle. It’s better to reach your goal gradually than to have a blowout!
And please, take time to rest! All proper workouts incorporate rest days and/or days with lower-intensity activities. There is no other true way to build yourself up.
Take Care of Current Foot and Ankle Problems Now!
If you are currently suffering from heel pain, ankle pain, or other day-to-day problems, you can’t expect them to just get better when you start getting more active. They can often act as a hindrance, instead!
Addressing the sources of your foot and ankle problems will not only make you more comfortable out and about, but can also help correct potential issues that could be increasing your risk of sports injuries without even knowing it. This can include structural abnormalities or problems with your gait that we can address via custom orthotics or changes in footwear.
The better you equip yourself against sports injuries, the more likely you’ll be able to reach your goals—and enjoy doing so with less pain. We are more than happy to discuss with you the best ways to pursue your goals in foot- and ankle-friendly ways, especially if you have current or past concerns.
Call us at (305) 514-0404 to schedule an appointment at either of our offices in North Miami Beach or Miami Shores. Please also feel free to contact us via our online form to have a member of our staff respond during normal office hours.