March 2008 Wellness Ezine

How to Avoid Overuse Injuries

    With the summer racing season upon us, it wonít be long before many athletes are logging extra miles and workouts. After all, pushing ourselves is what enables us to become better athletes and competitors, right?
    Not exactly. According to Podiatry Today, overuse injuries represent the single largest group of sports-related injuries that require medical attention. Many who have experienced overuse injuries know that there is a fine line between pushing yourself for results and incurring an injury. Where this invisible line may lie varies from athlete to athlete, but there are some common tips that everyone can follow to make sure that their racing season isnít cut short by an unnecessary injury.
    First and foremost, make sure that all your equipment fits and isnít worn down. If youíre training for a running race, many foot, ankle and knee problems happen when shoes become worn down and lose their cushioning. Make it a priority to replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles. If you plan on dramatically increasing your bike mileage this summer and havenít yet had a bike fit, plan on getting one. You can avoid many injuries just by making sure that you have the proper alignment on the bike.
    Second, donít cheat yourself of recovery time between workouts. Most people need to let their bodies recover at least 24 hours between workouts. While professional athletes are off their feet between intense workouts, many of us are running errands, picking up the kids and walking around all day at work. If you begin to feel sluggish during your exercise, and youíre logging a lot of hours, start to pay attention to how you can reduce activity between sessions. Stay off your feet as much as possible. Consider massage, which helps the muscles recover by flushing fluids through soft tissue. Drink a lot of water. And donít forget how important sleep can be to your recovery process.
    A lot of times when weíre battling an oncoming injury, we skimp on the very thing that could make a difference and keep pain at bay: stretching. If youíre a swimmer, warm up and stretch the arms before getting into the water. The same goes for biking and running. A very simple stretching routine that covers all the major leg muscles includes stretching the hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, calves, ankles and feet. This will take you 15 minutes, and will go a long way toward protecting against injury.
    Last, and most importantly, donít ignore specific pain that lingers as youíre putting in extra miles. Foot, ankle and other pains are much easier to resolve at the beginning of an injury. Many endurance athletes wait months until their injuries are extremely developed to seek medical attention. Medical practitioners can still help you at these more advanced stages, but know that the longer you wait, the longer it will take to heal your injury.
    The more time and effort you put into training, the more emphasis you need to place on remaining injury free. Proper equipment, stretching and massage may seem secondary to your overall fitness plan, but when youíre spending countless hours every week these tools are your best insurance policy for an injury-free season.
    What factors can cause overuse injuries?

  • Improper stretching
  • Lack of recovery time between workouts
  • Inappropriate training speed
  • Incorrect biomechanical alignment
  • Equipment doesnít fit properly
  • Carrying extra weight

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