A life without injuries will not only help you reach your goals faster but will pour out into the other aspects of your life, with friends, family, at work and other places you may be. We have all experienced at one point a nagging lower back, a knee pain that didn’t go away, a recurring shoulder injury or other chronic pains. And trust me, I’ve been there.
There should be two, equally important things to think about when you are training:
A. What is the method of training that will make you reach your goals the fastest
B. What is the method of training that will achieve point “A” and keep you injury free
One cannot ignore either point. Focus only on A and you are sure to exhaust your body and cause over use injuries. Focus too much on B and you will not progress fast enough or might plateau.
So how do you find the right balance?
First of all, remaining injury free means two things:
1. healing old injuries
2. preventing future injuries
Ok let’s focus on point A
Your body is extremely malleable and with proper training and focus you can get rid of any chronic pain due to injuries. Most major injuries cause muscle imbalances which can cause world of pain if left unaddressed. If that injury required surgical process to heal, you will need to pay close attention to your new body’s functionality. You can still do what you could before but need to be train slightly differently or take a different approach.
Understand that age has nothing to do about it
Do you heal faster when you are younger? Unless you are still growing, no. The difference between a 20 year old and 40 year old is that an ankle sprain at 20 may be the first of many. If you have suffered 15 ankle sprains by the time you are 40, then yes, it will take longer to heal because your ankle is more beat up that the 20 year old’s.
Here are two easy ways to fix chronic pains
1. Strength train
You will feel stronger but most importantly you will retain muscle. After a certain age (ranging from 25-35 depending on lifestyle and training) you will lose 1% of muscle mass each year if you stay inactive. This is easily preventable with training. Keeping your muscles at full potential will make them function better, avoiding overuse injuries and preventing current injuries from deteriorating.
2. Find out your muscle imbalances and fix them
Go see a physio or a doctor if you have to, but find your muscle imbalances. Get the opinion of a health care professional, do a little bit of reading about the muscles involved, strengthen the weaker ones and stretch out the tighter ones. Have tight hip flexors? try out the couch stretch below. Have week hamstring? start deadlifting.
Ok now point B: prevent future injuries
The leading cause of recurring future injuries is old injuries left unchecked. So first thing to do is to complete point A.
Once you are moving pain free every day, great! Keep going with your routine. Keep stretching out your tight areas and if you notice new muscle imbalances, fix them. Make stretching part of your weekly routine. Either take up some yoga, or stretch out yourself. I find that yoga helps me relax my mind, but I prefer to stretch after my workouts to stay flexible.
Have a proper warm up
Your warm up should elevate your core temperature making cellular exchanges better and be specific to your upcoming work out. If you are about to squat or run, doing dynamic drills for your chest will have little effect.
To warm up you core temperature, 5-10 minutes on any cardio machines works. Once you break a light sweat you can move on to the specific warm up.
The specific warm up should help you move better during the upcoming workout. Dynamic stretches like leg swings or high knees are great for lower body workouts. Mobility drills should also be a must have in your specific warm up. And last but not least, core activation should be worked.
A great warm up for a leg day at the gym could be:
5-10 minutes on the stationary bike
A full, proper warm up can take up to 20 minutes depending on your needs.
If you are working out in a gym, the first set of any exercise should be done without any weight and then gradually work up to your working weight.
On going body care
You do not have to be flexible like a gymnast to be healthy and injury free. on top of what we just talked about, making sure to follow the following will help keep your body injury free on the long term
Give your body enough rest between workouts
Take some recovery/rest weeks every 8-12 weeks
Eat mainly non processed foods
Mix up your training every 3-6 months