1. Avoid Overtraining
If injuries are dirty words, then overtraining is "eff-dash-dash-dash." Overtraining is the first step on the painful path to injury. Overtraining occurs when too much stress is put on the muscular and skeletal systems. When this occurs repeatedly (as in training for a marathon or walking on the treadmill everyday), the stress becomes too much and then muscles and bones become weak links in the body's "kinetic chain." So that nagging pain in your ankle didn't just "happen" one day at the gym...chances are you've been overtraining for some time and now the result is a bum ankle.
2. Good Form, Jack
One of the most common culprits of injuries that stem from overtraining is the development of bad form. Whether you're a runner whose posture has slacked or you may be hazy on the finer points of weight-lifting technique, bad form is one way to surely put too much stress on muscles and bones, and this can cause even more serious injury than just a little muscle soreness.
Poor form or technique puts stress on the wrong parts of the muscle, or makes the muscle work in a way it may not be supposed to. Bad form can also occur in the form of incorrect movement. Add a wrong move in a way a muscle isn't supposed to work, and now we can have muscle tears and longer injury time off. Clean up your form and technique and help stay in the gym and out of the doctor's.
3. Listen to Your Body
The only person who knows how much your body can take is you. And our bodies love to tell us things. My liver likes to talk after a rough night out. And your muscles will talk to you when they are hurting. When you feel an injury has occurred or is occurring, don't "tough" it out. This can just cause more injuries or compound the one you already have. Take some time off from working that particular muscle group. This may help offset the injury cycle. Use common sense: rest it, ice sore muscles (like shin splints), compress muscular injuries (think like an ankle wrap) and keep your injury elevated.
4. Consult a Pro
You aren't a doctor. In any scenario where an injury occurs, be sure to consult an orthopedic professional who can accurately diagnose your injury and get you back to your normal routine in no time.
Ryan Barnhart, MS, PES, is a certified Performance Enhancement
and Injury Prevention Specialist through the National Academy of Sports
Medicine (NASM). He also holds a master's degree in exercise science, as
well as a bachelor of sport management, both from California University
of Pennsylvania. Ryan has worked with numerous collegiate and amateur
athletes across many different fields. Ryan also has had the opportunity
to work with several professional athletes. Recently he has worked with
amateur and professional athletes within the emerging sport of Mixed
Ryan is currently the director of fitness at a 700+ member gym near Pittsburgh, PA. He enjoys working with weekend warriors, athletes, and everyone in between. You can contact Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.