With New Year’s resolutions fresh in their minds, people everywhere are hitting the gym and pounding the pavements, but physiotherapists say the key to getting fit in the new year is staying injury-free.
Cairns-based physiotherapist Ryan Adam encourages everyone to get on board with the New Year, New Me concept popular on social media, but said people needed to be mindful of overdoing things.
“Everyone needs a bit of motivation, and if that’s the start of the year for you then good on you,” he said
“[But] subtle injuries can arise over a couple of weeks or a couple of months and rear their ugly head, or you can get some obvious acute strains and sprains from just going too hard.
“Late January, February and March, those early months of the year are when people start to roll in with niggles or worse from their new pursuits.”
And while injuries mean more money coming through the door, Mr Adam said it was not the kind of thing any physiotherapist wanted to see.
“We’d definitely rather people were preventing these sorts of injuries — we’re not rubbing our hands together gleefully when they limp through the doors,” he said.
In order to steer clear of injuries as you work towards your fitness goals for 2017, here are Mr Adam’s top five tips to jot down in your fitness diary.
1. Check yourself before wrecking yourself
Firstly, Mr Adam said you should check the level of intensity at which you can comfortably work out.
“When you’re picking an activity, think about the intensity of it; think about what your normal intensity of activity is and try to match it,” he said.
“Don’t go from low intensity, pottering around the garden to high intensity, throwing a lot of weights around.”
Mr Adam urged people to be aware of their limits, and to tailor exercise programs to their own needs.
“There’s a lot of popular activities that involve high intensity training — things like F45, Crossfit and bootcamps — that are very attractive because they get good results very quickly, but they also have the highest risk [of injury],” he said.
“Just take your time, progress slowly, and listen to your body.”
He said it was also important to know why you were exercising and what your goals were.
“If you just want a bit of general health and you don’t want to be a couch potato, then you don’t need to be throwing massive weight overhead and trying to keep up with intense functional fitness trends.”
2. Be aware of the impact
Almost every form of activity has an impact on your body, but some can be more damaging than others, particularly after periods of inactivity.
“A lot of people think running is a natural form of exercise and everyone should be able to do it, but we’re a bit of a sedentary society and sometimes that leaves the body a little unprepared for even something natural like running,” Mr Adam said.
Even walking too far, too soon can take its toll on the body.
“Some people don’t realise that walking has impact. You still have to absorb shock with every step you take,” Mr Adam said.
“If you walk 6 kilometres and you’ve only ever done 300 metres around the shopping centre, then that’s a big jump.”
3. Take it slow
To avoid impact injuries it is best to start slowly and work your way up to longer distances and more impactful activities.
“Pick a low-impact option at first — swimming, biking, rowing, or other things like that — and then graduate that impact as you go,” Mr Adam said.
“Newbies to the fitness world need to take care with everything, or consult someone first, even for basic things like walking and running.”
4. Do your research and know your body
If you have not exercised in some time, or have been doing low levels of exercise, be sure to pick the activity that best suits you.
“Pick an activity you know your body can handle in regards to balance and complexity,” Mr Adam said.
“If you haven’t ever done single-leg squats or walking lunges before, you might want to avoid them to start.
“I see a lot of those in boot camps and they can really cause a lot of injuries over time because people aren’t used to that [type of] movement.”
5. High school fitness level doesn’t apply
And, in case you needed reminding, your champion running efforts in high school mean nothing if you have done little of it since.
“If you haven’t run in six months or two years, don’t expect to be able to run 5 kilometres without getting some sort of injury eventually,” Mr Adam said.
“But, if you want to start running again, there’s a lot of information available — you just have to spend an hour or two looking at what a normal running progression is.
“To get you from the couch to [running] 5 kilometres, for example, there might be a 12-week program that shows you how to build up gradually and monitor your symptoms along the way.
“Doing a bit of research and looking at how to progress through whatever activity it is that you’re going to do is really important.”