How to injury proof your body

There’s nothing worse than when you’re halfway through mastering the art of running when you pull a hammy. Here’s how to prep your body to stop that from happening.

Injury puts a big, fat wedge in your wellness progress. Speaking on Body+Soul’s daily podcast Healthy-ish, Sydney-based physiotherapist and founder of The Running Room, Alex Bell, gives his tips on how to keep our bodies in shape.

His number one tip? Don’t think of it as injury prep. Think of it as performance training.

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“I think it’s really important to start shifting our narrative and mindset away from pain and rehabilitation, but start talking about performance,” he tells host Felicity Harley on the Healthy-ish episode How to injury-proof your body.

“When we start talking about performance, people are more on-board. Often say ‘we don’t really care about injury until we’re injured.’”

Build a base with strength and conditioning

“I think strength is key. You can’t go wrong getting strong…and I think it’s, again, shifting the mindset from weaknesses to strengths,” he says.

“What are some of the things and some of those deficits that we know we can address? And can you turn those weaknesses into strengths?”

Doing this early on can help to set you up for success later on.

Look at your body like an ecosystem

Your body is more than just bones and joints. “Start to look at the body as a whole, and stop moving away from just a biomechanical aspect of running, gym, and sport. Start looking at yourself as an as a whole ecosystem,” Bell says.

“We know how important sleep is on recovery and also performance. There’s numerous studies that have come out in more recent times highlighting the importance of that. Then starting to look at things like stress and the role that can play on the pain experience.”

“We know that pain is produced by the brain and we know that stress plays a massive, massive role in that.”

Know when to give it a break

Bell says we can easily get caught in the ‘go, go, go’, mentality, but we need to remember its ok to take some rest and rejuvenation from time to time.

“Sometimes your body needs that ability to take that chance to recover. Don’t feel that having a rest day is always a bad thing. In fact, it can actually help you to get more out of the next session or your next game of sport or your next run.”

Should you go if you’re exhausted or worn out?

While it’s great to have dedication to your workout, but you don’t need to be at 100% every time you exercise.

Not every session needs to be hard. You know, you actually can get a hell of a lot of out of a session or a run, that’s a really slow run”

Bell suggests we shift out approach and think, ‘No, I don’t need to always be punishing myself’. Instead consider how you can do your exercise more mindfully, potentially you could run by a beautiful coastline or realise how gorgeous your local area is.

He also recommends doing some exercise at a slower pace, as many people are going too hard, too fast, too often, which leads to injury. “We want to slow down some of those runs and really build your aerobic base and we can say that that will actually translate to better performance as well. So it’s OK to slow down and take those sessions that are, you know, you’re really enjoying.”

Split the intensity of your training

You actually want to do 80 per cent of your training load at an aerobic pace – so that’s more of that slow type running where you can still talk,” explains Bell.

“[The remaining] 20 per cent of your training load should be done at with those high intensity workouts.”

If you can keep a balance between your workouts this way, you’ll be much less likely to hurt yourself from overwork.

Do dynamic stretching

Stretching is often touted as the best way to keep limber before a workout, but Bell actually says that static stretching (where you hold the post for a number of seconds) isn’t worth the time, particularly before a workout.

Instead we should opt for dynamic stretching, such as a lunge-twist or high kick.

“Dynamic stretching plays a massive, massive role…we’re trying to really prepare not only the body, the muscles, the tendons, all of those things, but also your nervous system. We’re trying to prepare your body for the task and it’s about to perform and that’s something that we should be implementing.”

“I think the key takeaways are, whatever task you’re about to perform, try and emulate that and just do it in a more slow, controlled manner, so you’re preparing your body.”

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