Beginning a new exercise regime will likely bring on a set of brand new aches and pains in areas you didn’t even know existed. So how can you avoid injury going into a new exercise routine?
This is great, you are now working new muscle groups and engaging your control centre in a range of new coordination-testing activities. Love it!
What’s not so great is the early injuries that often put people off from continuing with their routines before they have really even begun.
Let’s briefly breakdown three reasons why injuries commonly occur when undertaking unfamiliar exercises:
1. Get acquainted with your baseline fitness
Your baseline fitness is how fit you are at this very moment of a new routine, or ideally, it is a measurement taken before commencing a new regime. Have a realistic idea of your ability in the cardiovascular, strength, endurance and mobility/flexibility departments.
For those who have been missing-in-action on the exercise front for a while, obtaining a thorough physical from your GP prior to starting is recommended.
2. Familiarise yourself with training principles FITT
The training principles Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type are important when planning out your new training routine.
A sharp increase in any of these areas can lead to injuries: most commonly tendinitis, plantar fasciitis and patellofemoral pain (knee pain). Give the body time to adapt.
To start, try 30min of low intensity activities and then gradually build up the load by increasing one or several factors, such as: performing the activity for longer, more often and at a higher work rate, or, by adding some more weight to the exercise.
You can apply this to any type of training, whether it’s a new team sport, weights at the gym, running, hiking or swimming. If you are not feeling confident then it is worth consulting an experienced personal trainer, strength/ conditioning coach, physio or exercise physiologist to construct a plan for you.
If you’d like to learn more about FITT, see here.
3. New skill acquisition
Remember taking your kid to their first day of soccer and giggling at how funny they are the first time they sprint or kick a ball?
Well I hate to break it to you, but a lot of grown adults are just as bad at skills they have never tried before too. Trust me, we are all probably on a gym blooper reel somewhere!
The rise in ACL (knee ligament) reconstructions has gained a lot of media attention recently. I believe, quite passionately, that it is the lack of time dedicated to teaching children and adults basic skills in a controlled environment, before releasing them onto a chaotic sports field or gym that is to blame.
Acquiring a new skill takes time and effort, which is why excellence is not achieved overnight but over many months or years.
Revisit basic movement patterns such as the squat, lunge, deadlift, jumping both on the spot/forward and backward/ side-to-side, hopping and your capacity to stop and start (accelerate and deaccelerate). Practice them well and often.
Work some of this ‘skill prep’ work into your training program. It’s an efficient way to commence your training according to the FITT principles, irrespective of whether you are committing to a specific sport or just general exercise.
One thing that may help you break your body into a change in activity and so help to avoid injury going into a new exercise routine is to warm up and cool down properly. To assist you in getting those unused muscles working, they might want to invest in the latest piece of must-have equipment – a massage gun. If you’d like to know more about these hugely popular devices, see our guide here.
Good luck, and I trust that you will soon perform all your new skills with strength, balance and control.