The two most common questions I am asked are: how do I stay injury free? How do I train without pain?
Firstly, what I would like to emphasise that if you are injured and feeling pain you really do need to seek professional help where you will be taken through an appropriate rehabilitation program. Take note, pushing through the injury is definitely not the answer! Injury rehab is a very complex process and unfortunately it’s impossible to break it down in a way that anyone, by reading a blog post, will be able to do it.
Secondly, with regards to training without pain and avoiding injury here are a few key topics to consider.
1. Body Awareness
Best advice ever and key to all the following advice is listen to your body. If you are in discomfort then don’t do it. Be aware of how you are moving as moving poorly can lead you down the path to injury. If you don’t have a training partner or a personal trainer make sure to use a mirror to check your form when exercising.
2. Assessment and Re-assessment
Assessments are key to controlling the effects and responses of what you are doing. Without it it’s like shooting in the dark. There are a lot of way to assess an individual ie checking ranges of motion, discomfort levels, strength tests and so on. The easiest assessment and one of my favourites is assessing your own active range of motion. For example: before you perform a squat check how much movement you have in your hips as the image suggests (the movement should be slow and controlled, back straight).
Then perform a squat and check again the movement in the hips. If your hips can’t go as high as before (the green angle increased) it means that you exceeded your muscular tolerance, moving into a passive range of movement and there is a potential chance for injury to happen. TIP: If you perform your squat and go only as low as your hip angle was when you assessed (your active range) it then decreases the risk of injury drastically.
3. Exercise Correctly
Recently I came across a research paper where the participants did the exact same exercises but were coached using two different personal trainers. Surprise, surprise, the most knowledgeable trainer (based on qualifications and experience) produced better results not only to do with recovery from injury but also ensuring that individuals remained injury free.
Final note: There is no magazine that will teach you how to exercise correctly. Even if you don’t intend to do a long term thing, my recommendation is to find a good personal trainer and learn as much as you can with him/her.
TIP: Remember, form/technique over intensity. If you can’t do a movement slowly you shouldn’t do it fast. Focus on the muscles the exercise should be targeting. In doubt, is better to stick with the exercises you know.