Tuesday, January 4, 2011


by Kris Pitcher

With the holidays behind us and nothing but new outlooks ahead, if we're not careful we'll find ourselves one of the 17 million Americans sidelined by a sports injury this year. An injury or an illness can knock the wind out of your good intentions and make you feel like a  big ol' quitter. You've barely gotten started, and remember you only have to do this as long as you want it to work...so slow down and take a few precautions to reduce your risk of injury.

Always get checked out by your medical provider before beginning any exercise program. There are some common culprits to sports injuries. Most injuries come on gradually and are considered overuse injuries - they're not your acute broken bone type of thing. Worn out shoes, poor form, biomechanical imbalances, doing too much too soon, and over training most commonly lead to injury. Failure to wear appropriate gear is right up there too.

Having the right shoes for your sport is really important, and I'm not just saying this because I like shoes. Running shoes are designed for...running. They don't have good lateral stability and are therefor not a good group exercise shoe for example. Court shoes are great for basketball, but it helps if you actually tie the laces regardless of how dorky you look. A "cross trainer" is a decent multitasking shoe designed for many of your gym activities but I wouldn't walk/jog/run in it. You get the idea. Try lots of shoes on, each is going to feel different. Some have a generous toe box, but might have heel slip on your foot. Try them all on - get the one that fits your foot the best, not the cutest one.

Shoes don't last forever, they expire. Those retro Reebok's that you've had since '82, need to be replaced. The cushioning properties wear out, and you only get one pair of feet. A really good shoe store can look at your gait, how you walk, and make suggestions. They can also look at the wear pattern on the shoes you are replacing for clues about how you walk/run etc.

Discomfort is a signal you should pay attention to in your body. You don't ever want to push through pain. No pain no gain...that doesn't fly. It's a good idea to increase your activity gradually. As any weekend warrior can tell you, pushing too much too soon will lead to injury. And it's really embarrassing to ask for help getting on or off the toilet. Gradual.

Consider alternating training days with rest days, or easy days with heavy days. This works well if you are lifting every other day. If you are training for a triathlon and have a longer run day, schedule it when your body is rested or when you can take a little extra recovery time. Very important.

It makes sense to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your activity. Be sun smart even in the winter. And avoid exercising any time you're in pain or feel fatigued. These are times when mistakes happen and injuries too. When and if an injury does happen seek medical help. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation is the general guideline for care as you make your way to medical help.

Keep yourself from being sidelined by taking some precautionary steps. Things do happen, and we'll talk soon about managing your way through an injury. There are still ways you can stay on track and keep yourself connected to your goals as you recover. It can be frustrating as all get out. Knowing ahead that an injury is a remote possibility (hello, 17 million!) can help you maintain perspective. Now, I don't want to see you on the sidelines!

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