Updated: Sep 22, 2019
How often have you seen, heard of or even experience first hand an injury from sport. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos on Facebook, YouTube or you’ve been framed (I’m showing my age here a little, as I doubt this is still running – but was a staple of my childhood!). You know the ones, where people are doing something like a chin-up and the bar suddenly collapses down on them, or skateboarding and suddenly do a somewhat funny, but slightly painful mess up.
This in itself may be a bit of deterrent for you when considering getting into exercise. Now, I won’t lie to you, doing any kind of sport or exercise does carry a risk of injury with it. However, not doing exercise can hold a far worse risk of injury. The difference is, you can directly relate a fractured bone, or a bruise to the act of accidentally dropping a weight on your foot. The killer however, is the unseen changes which happen from lack of exercise most of the time. Worsening of cardiovascular health, rising blood pressure and increasing organ fat.
So, in short, yes - you may well get injured at some point, but don’t let that put you off. Also, put yourself in the best possible position to not get injured from the outset. Read up about avoiding getting injured on a blog post…. Like this one 😉.
I got injured one Christmas. I went in, wanting to do a PB, psyched myself up for it, and then pushed myself too hard. I tore my rotator cuff, and then was unable to train properly for 6 months (I did get my PB, but definitely not worth it). It was playing havoc with my mental health as well. Something I had been training hard to achieve, suddenly seemed so far away, as week after week I knew I was losing the strength. What I would have given to have prepped properly and avoided that injury.
Luckily, on a plant based diet, you have a much better recovery rate than someone not on a plant based diet. There are fewer inflammatory foods on a plant based diet, which means you can heal faster. You do, however, need to make sure you are eating the correct foods still, as there are foods which will stall healing and foods that will increase healing (yes even on a plant based diet!). We will touch on this in a separate blog post as part of our nutrition series. In this post I will concentrate on what you can do to prevent injury, and what to do when you get injured from an exercise point of view.
Trying to avoid those pesky injuries in the first place
Yes, it is essential, weights, cardio, whatever you are doing, warm up first. When I was training at Suffolk Strength academy, we ALWAYS were made to do warm ups, every single session. This included mobility movements, some yoga moves and stretching. I, very uncoincidentally, hardly ever got injured. By warming up, it means you are pumping blood around your body, to the muscles, loosening the joints and stretching tight muscles to make them more elastic, reducing the chance of them tearing. Even if you don’t like it, or feel you could be working out instead of warming up, then you need to remind yourself of the last time you got injured and how much more time that takes than doing a warm up does, and how far that puts you back.
OK, a sub category of warming up, but you REALLY need to warm up. So here goes a bit of information about stretching. Often people think you need to push through the tightness until it hurts. That’s not right. Doing that can cause injury. Warming up stretches only need to be held for around 10 seconds at a point of tension but not pain. You just want to stretch it, you don’t want to stretch, tear and snap the muscle!
Do some lighter sets if doing weights
Only you know how your body feels, so will know what warm up sets you’ll need to do, but ALWAYS do some if you are working up to a heavy weight. For example, if I was working my way up to do a 180kg deadlift, I would usually start with 60kg (or just the bar if I’m feeling especially tight). I would do 10 sets of this, then up it to 100kg, do 5 sets of this, up it again to 140kg, do a set of 3, then 160 for a set of 1, then 180.
The thing you don’t want to do it tire yourself out before getting to your working weight, but you do want to have prepared your body for the pressure you are about to put it under. Even if you are not going heavy, make sure you have done a set of the same motion you are about to perform. Think about it, have you ever just moved wrong whilst sitting or standing and twinged something. That’s with no weight! So do always warm up!
Have a spotter
If possible, it is good to have a spotter with you who can take the weight if something starts to just not feel right. If that’s not possible, then make sure you set up bars etc, so that you can drop the weight if needs be. You don’t want to have to be pushing through an injury just to keep yourself from being destroyed by the weight causing the injury.
If you don’t have a spotter, then using dumbbells can be a safer way to work those muscles.
Don’t copy the person over there/try to show off
Yes, someone else in the gym is going to be stronger than you, or someone you follow on Instagram will be. There are very few people that can say that is not the case, trust me, neither you nor I are one of those – no matter how much we wish or think we are. So, don’t go trying to replicate the weight of someone else just to prove the point. Know your own limits. If you know you have been lifting 100kg less than the weight you are about to attempt, don’t be a fool. When you crumple on the ground, with bones sticking out of every which way, you are not going to be impressing anyone.
Know your body
This is something that takes practice, and unfortunately sometimes trial and error. Don’t take the “no pain, no gain” philosophy to a stupid level. The pain in the mantra is referring to the muscle burn, not the pain of a bone smashing into 1000 pieces, or your muscle tearing away from the bone. If you feel something twinge, ping, snap, crackle or pop, stop. It’s better to sit it out and not attempt any more that day, than think you could push through it.
The pain may not feel too bad at the point of injury. That’s only because your body is a very clever machine. If you are working out, your body is already producing dopamine. This means you can’t feel the pain that much. It also won’t have swelled up much at that point.
I remember playing football once, and going over on my ankle. I felt it snap crackle and pop, but oddly, no pain. I drove myself home, and then when I got home I realised my ankle had swollen up to the size of a watermelon. Still – not much pain. The next morning however was a whole different story! Putting pressure on that bad boy literally made me collapse onto the ground in agony. A quick trip to A&E (my friend drove me this time) and it turned out I had torn a ligament.
So, in conclusion, warm up, warm up warm up, don’t be silly, don’t show off and stop if you feel a twinge! I will do a separate blog post on what to do if you do get injured (even after all this advice with how to reduce the risk, some of you will still insist on getting injured!).