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Serving the Susquehanna Region

UPMC Trainer: Take Your Time to Avoid Training Injuries

by Dan Picarella, ATC

When the cold weather hits, it’s common for many of us to spend more time indoors, and allow some of our exercise routines to lapse. However, once spring arrives, motivation levels rise as the days lengthen and grow warmer. As we approach warmer weather and spring, it can be tempting to jump right into an exercise, jogging, or running program where you left off before the winter, but your body may not be as fit as it was before and you could be setting yourself up for aches, pains, and even injury.

Getting Started

Starting an exercise program is a great idea for a multitude of reasons, but it is also important to remember to talk to your doctor first and to begin gradually. Remember, your body needs time to adjust to the new demands placed on it. Exercise stresses our bodies, and by placing too large a demand on our bodies, we run the risk of injury and a quick regression backward.

The human body, however, has a tremendous capacity to adapt to physical stress. While we tend to think of “stress” negatively, physical stress, which is simply exercise and activity, is beneficial for our bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, making them stronger and more functional by the repetitive breakdown and buildup of tissue. 
Before you get started, focus on developing a well-rounded exercise plan:

  • Warm-up and flexibility: increase blood flow and circulation while assisting in range of motion and joint mobility.  This is crucial for exercise readiness, as well as injury prevention.
  • Strength training:  Focus on a full-body approach to strength training and do not neglect the core.
  • Cross train: diversify your workouts to spread the cumulative level of stress over additional muscles and joints.  Consider supplementing with cycling, swimming or elliptical routines to allow muscle group recovery. 
  • Rest: be sure to also include a few rest days into your active lifestyle. Rest not only allows your body to recover, but it also promotes muscle growth, increases energy, and prevents fatigue, which prepares your body for consistently successful workouts.

Walk Before You Run

Your level of progression toward your fitness goals is largely based off of your age, your length of time sedentary, and your fitness level prior to cessation of exercise.  It is thusly advised to return to a workout program in a progressive manner. Seek the advice of a sports medicine specialist or athletic trainer when beginning an exercise program or sport to prevent chronic or recurrent problems, such as overuse injuries.

Overuse injuries tend to occur when the breakdown and buildup are not properly proportioned leading to excess stress on the tissue. Overuse injuries, or repetitive strain injuries, are common athletic injuries associated with tendons, bones, and joints. Common examples of overuse injuries include tennis elbow, swimmer's shoulder, pitching elbow, runner's knee, jumper's knee, Achilles tendinitis, and shin splints. 

Regardless of the injury, don’t push through the pain. Consult a physician or athletic trainer if you have pain that doesn’t improve with rest. The diagnosis can usually be made after a thorough history and physical examination. This is best done by a sports medicine specialist with specific interest and knowledge of your sport or activity. In some cases, X-rays or other imaging, such as MRI or a bone scan, may be necessary for diagnosis.

Most overuse injuries can be prevented with proper training and common sense. Learn to listen to your body, and when something doesn’t feel right, talk to your athletic trainer or health care provider.

Learn more about UPMC Sports Medicine.