In Outdoor Fitness, most injuries can be avoided altogether by wearing proper clothes and shoes, by giving your body a full warm up and cool down, and by sticking to a gradual and progressive training program. Your most important tool for preventing injury is your concentration: moment-to-moment focus on the task at hand is the surest way to stay safe and injury free throughout even your most challenging workouts.
Exercise and athletics inevitably bring about aches, muscle fatigue, and soreness. These are part of the territory for us active people. Ignoring your aches and pains is a mistake. Left unattended, mild pain, fatigue and soreness can develop into something more serious and debilitating. It’s important to listen to your body and to avoid overtraining, so that those aches and pains do not develop into full-blown injuries.
Tip: The # 1 cause of injuries with Outdoor Fitness is a lapse in mental focus.
What is mental focus? Simply, it’s the ability to concentrate on the task at hand, to put your attention on the present moment, without interruption from internal chatter or external distractions.
Too far too fast—overtraining and injury
Overtraining is the most common cause of injury and physical ailments. In a rush to accomplish too much too soon, people often do themselves—and their fitness goals—real harm. Play it smart, and you stay healthy, make steady progress, and enjoy your exercise uninterrupted by injury and fatigue. Overdo things, and you risk a host of injuries, including shin splints, stress fractures, ankle sprains, knee and lower back pain, and foot pain. Know the signs of pushing yourself too hard, and learn how to pull back and give your body the rest it needs. Use pain as your general guide. If something hurts, stop doing it. Your body is remarkably adept at sensing the seriousness of an injury and responding accordingly. Resist the temptation to stretch an injured muscle—this can often make things worse, as you risk tearing muscle fibers.
Tip: How to treat an injury
Soft tissue injuries such as sprains, pulls and bruises should be tended to immediately.
Click here to learn the basics of injury treatment.
Cross training and rest days
Other ways to prevent injuries include cross training and incorporating rest and/or active rest days.
Cross training is the rotation of sport and fitness activities on different days, is the key to preventing overuse injuries—such as tendonitis—and keeping your training effective. Try something completely new, such as inline skating, hiking, mountain biking, tennis, rock climbing, kayaking, or golf. Anything that you find enjoyable and that stimulates your muscles and your brain is a great cross-training exercise.
Rest days are just that—a day off from formal exercise. You can choose to do nothing or you can make it slightly active and move your body by washing your car, raking the leaves, walking your errands, take a walk with a friend, or play with your kids—just make sure you’re not over exerting yourself.
It takes a village
Also, it’s a good idea to build a network of sports medicine professionals that you can refer to before you have a problem. Your list should include a massage therapist, physical therapist, and a podiatrist.