We all know that exercise is good for us right? So why are physios and sports therapists earning more money than ever with clinics full of sportsmen and women?
Our lifestyles are partly to blame: driving cars, sitting at desks, sitting in front of the TV, slumping in bed, slumping in front of the computer; all of these things mean that our posture is poor, our 'upright' muscles are weak and our spines are not in optimal health. We then take our 21st century bodies out for a blast around the park or a beasting at the gym and sooner or later feel our bodies complaining loudly!
I am a Pilates teacher, personal trainer and fitness writer and I managed to reach my 40s injury free inspite of some crazy sporting activities (such as training with the Welsh Rugby team one day and running a spontaneous half marathon two days later!). However, since my writing workload increased I have noticed more backache and I now have a lovely little frozen shoulder! (In fact typing this with ice-pack tucked under my sweatshirt!) How did this happen?? I should know better! The truth is that I do know better, but as my Mum says "A cobblers shoes are always poorest mended!" I think what she is trying to say is that professionals (in most professions) often don't spend enough time applying their expertise to their own situation.
I went to see physiotherapist Adam Meakins at 'Perform' who said that he and his team (who operate out of Spire clinics nationwide) are trying to encourage sportsmen and women into the clinic before they get injured. This type of preventative care is know as 'pre-hab' (so much better than re-hab) and can help you to stay injury free as well as improve your performance in your chosen sport. Meakins told me that that he sees more and more injuries in peoples 30s and 40s - "In your 20s your tendons are nice and tight and neat, but in your 30s we start to see fraying (exactly like an old rope) which will go on to cause injury".
Let's think about how this 'fraying' or wear and tear can be exacerbated. Take for example my shoulder. The tendons are now older (God I hate admitting this to myself let alone you!) and therefore more vulnerable. Because I am now spending hours in front of my laptop, my shoulders have become more anteriorly rotated (rolled slightly forwards) so now my joints are not perfectly aligned. This means, every time I run and swing my arms, I am increasing my potential for shoulder injury. In one run I might swing my arms 15,000 times - that is a lot of incorrect movement. (The specialists say that there is no known reason for frozen shoulder by the way, it is one of those mysteries, but I am still aware that my shoulders are not the glorious, perfect things they once were!).
Let's think about feet now in the same way. If you have a foot that slightly rolls in as you run, this means that your joint alignment through your lower limb will be out, and this can affect your knees, pelvis and your back causing pain and injury.
Meakins uses a footbed scanner to check exactly what happens as your foot hits the floor and rolls off, and this way he can predict potential problems through the lower body and trunk. His message is get checked out before you train to prevent problems down the line.
Here are my top 10 tips to prevent sporting injuries -
1. Always warm up.
Use dynamic stretches mimicking your sports for several minutes
2. Practice Pilates.
Go to a class or studio, get a DVD at home, or best of all have a 1-1 session. Pilates can help to improve your posture and balance out tight/weak spots. My own DVD 'Pilates with Caroline Sandry' http://www.carolinesandry.com/wordpress/?page_id=228#CSpilates
3. Try Yoga.
Yoga in itself can be way to challenging for our 21st century bodies so look for a Yoga Sports Coach who will be trained in working with athletes and sports people to prevent injury and improve performance http://http://yogasportscience.com/yoga-sports-coach/
4. Invest in a professional like Meakins.
Pre-hab is so much nicer than re-hab! http://www.spirehealthcare.com/perform/
5. Listen to your body. I
f it hurts, stop! If you are too tired, rest! Over-training can also lead to injury.
6. Cross train.
Doing the same thing over and over will lead to muscle imbalances. Try Reebok CrossFit to strengthen your entire muscular system http://www.reebok.com/en-GB/?dvn=fitness
7. Read 'Yoga for Healthy Backs'
Which is a no-nonsense book that will help you stay strong and supple. No need to touch the back of your head with your toes - this book is perfect for our tight western bodies. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yoga-Healthy-Lower-Backs-Semlyen/dp/1905367279/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332406818&sr=1-1
8. Cool down and stretch after your session.
This is a good time to practice some Pilates or Yoga stretches while your body is warm and pliable.
9. When working at your computer
Set an alarm on your phone for every 90 minute and stand up to stretch. Roll your shoulders back several times, stretch arms overhead and roll down to touch your toes. If you have time, walk briskly for five minutes or run up and down the office stairs to keep your body mobile.
10. Try compression wear during or after a hard session.
110% have a brilliant range that has pockets for ice so you have a double whammy recovery strategy! http://www.sweatshop.co.uk/
The message here? Be nice to yourself and enjoy your sport. Prevention is better than cure, so for a long and happy sporty life help your body to help itself!