Stay Injury-free This Season

Three golden rules for avoiding summer sports injuries

prevent injuries
prevent injuries. Blend Images - Priscilla Gragg/Brand X Images/Getty Images

Sports injuries happen year-round, but the most common sports injuries tend to occur during summer when more people are active. And of all the possible injuries you could sustain, injuries from running are far more common than injuries found in other, more specialized sports. While ankle sprains are a top contender for the most likely acute injury you could suffer, chronic, overuse injuries are much more likely to shorten your season.

Here are the three golden rules for avoiding a sports injury.

1. Mix Up Your Endurance Training Routine.
The number one thing you can do to avoid overuse sports injuries is to avoid doing the same same over and over, day in and day out. Of course, you need to practice the skills you want to get better at, but you can also take this practice too far. For example, many athletes, and many more active gym-goers find themselves stuck in a rut doing the same workout every time they go to the gym. Perhaps you always use the elliptical for 30 minutes, and finish with a few pushup and sit ups, or you always use the treadmill or just do the spin class and call it a day. If you do the same thing all the time all, you are bound to wind up with an overuse injury. It's just a matter of time until the repetitive motion catches up with you.

To avoid these common injuries, try to vary your cardio and endurance workouts during the week.

If you are a runner, cross train by adding in a day or two of cycling, swimming, rowing, jumping rope, circuit routines or something completely different. You can even vary the type of running you do: treadmill, trail, track, stairs, hills, beach, etc... or just add interval endurance workouts.

2. Vary Your Strength Training Workouts.
Instead of doing the same weight workouts over and over, keep it fresh by changing the exercises you use during the seasons.

It's critical to do balanced strength training workouts. That means you work all you muscle groups — the front, back and sides of your body — in order to maintain strength and stability in the opposing muscle groups as well as the whole body. Most of us prefer to exercise toward our strengths, but when it comes to injury prevention, building up the weak areas is critical. If you typically only work your lower body (squats and lunges and step ups), it may be less inviting to do pull ups, push ups, or lat rows, but it will be time well spent. 

3. Stay Mentally Flexible.
Maintaining your range of motion helps reduce injuries, but it's even more important to maintain a flexible attitude. Rather than being rigid in your training routine and stubbornly attached to a workout plan, stay open to last-minute modifications and swaps based upon how you feel and the time and space you have available. By keeping a flexible attitude you will get more out of each workout and avoid potential injuries. How?

Simply pay attention to how you are feeling and adjust your workouts to take advantage of your "on" days, and give yourself a break on your "off" days.

Never ignore the warning signs of injuries. Training with your body, rather than against it, is one of the best ways to get more out of every minute you train, because you will dramatically increase the quality of your workouts. Additionally, if you are feeling great, you will be much more focused and enthusiastic (have better self-talk) about what you are doing and this attitude can give you bigger gains than if you are forcing yourself to train through a slump. And no one ever gets much by struggling through a workout when their head and body just isn't enjoying it.

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