Prevent & Treat Common Workout Injuries

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Whether you are in top shape or a beginner, a workout injury can happen to anyone. You can experience an injury even when you are walking. A sprained joint or injured muscle can side-line you for days or even weeks. You can and should take steps to help reduce your risk of injury before and after every workout. The most common types of workout injuries include:

  • strained muscles
  • sprained ankles or other joints
  • knee injuries
  • wrist and shoulder injuries
  • tendinitis

Warm-up your muscles and joints before exercise and a cool-down after your workout can greatly reduce your risk of muscle and joint injury. Cool-down by doing light exercise until your heart rate and respiration return to normal. Stretch your muscles and joints again. Stretching after a workout helps to reduce the levels of lactic acid and other metabolic waste in your muscle cells, which is thought to contribute to post-exercise muscle soreness.

Don’t push yourself too hard during a workout. Know your body and  your limits. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workout by working harder, longer or increasing repetitions. Soon your strength and endurance will increase which can also help reduce your risk of injury.

Cross training is another good way to increase muscle strength, improve endurance and reduce your risk of injury. Shin splints and tendinitis are injuries that usually result from repetitive motions and over-use of one muscle or muscle group. Always rest at least 24 hours between workouts to give your muscles time to heal. For example, if you run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, try some light weight lifting on Tuesday and Thursday. Vary your workout so that all of your major muscle groups get a workout, but no single muscle or muscle group is over-worked.

If you do suffer an injury, remember R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate. Rest your injured muscle. Don’t work it until the injury is completely healed. You can still work your other muscles or engage in exercise that does not stress your injury. For example, if you injure your shoulder lifting weights, switch your workout to leg presses or walk and jog until your shoulder is fully healed. Apply ice to the injured area to reduce swelling. Applying a compression bandage to the affected joint or muscle also helps reduce swelling. Elevate injured limbs to further help reduce swelling. Use a mild over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medication if necessary. Most exercise injuries will heal in a few weeks or even in a few days. See your doctor if your injury does not heal, pain increases or does not subside, or if there is swelling and bruising around the injured area.


Nutritional Snacks For Traveling

Photo Credit: Jon Sullivan Public Domain

It isn’t always easy to eat healthy meals and snacks when traveling. Fast food and vending machines may be convenient, but the fare they offer can undo your weight-loss program and often the food is high in fat, but low in nutrients. You should eat when traveling because your body will need energy to fight off fatigue. The best way to avoid hunger and the urge to grab a fat laden burger or a bag of greasy chips from a vending machine is to plan ahead and pack your own snacks. Fewer airlines and practically no rail companies provide in-transit meals. The meals that are provided are usually highly processed foods laden with chemical preservatives. The best alternative is to bring your own food. Check with your travel agent or transportation provider to make sure the snacks you want to bring on mass transit are permitted before you leave home. Drink plenty of water before you begin your trip and stash a few bottles of water in your carry-on baggage. Dehydration can contribute to fatigue and headache. 
Pack a few apples, oranges, whole peaches and grapes for your trip. These fruits travel well and will keep fresh for hours in plastic containers or a soft-side lunch box. Wash your fruits thoroughly and dry them before placing them in plastic containers or in a lunch box. Don’t slice or peel the fruits, but plan to eat the fruit whole. Oranges can be peeled and separated into slices before placing them in a container. 
Granola and nuts travel well and won’t spoil during long trips. Pick up a box of granola or granola and fruit bars on your way to the airport or train station. Granola and nuts are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential to healthy cell function. Granola and nuts contain heart-healthy fats that your body needs to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. Select whole nuts and granola bars with whole grains, such as oats, for maximum nutrition. Always eat a healthy breakfast before you travel. Eating breakfast will prevent mid-morning hunger and the temptation to indulge in sweet rolls or donuts. Limit your caffeine consumption. Caffeine can increase your heart rate and make you feel fatigued after the caffeine wears off. 
When staying in a hotel, bring bottled water, fresh fruit and whole-grain crackers to the hotel. High fiber crackers and cookies make a filling and healthy late-night snack and can help you avoid the temptation to order room service food. Try to avoid ordering fast food or room service during your trip. Many fast food menus contain foods that are high in saturated fat and calories, but offer little in nutrition. Bring a bag of fresh, raw vegetables along for the trip. Carrots, celery and broccoli travel well in plastic containers.