You have heard it before. Exercise – be it running, cycling or core strength building – is great for your body. This is due to a remarkable process known as adaptation and remodelling, which is the ability of your body to constantly breakdown and build-up muscle, tendon, bone and ligament tissues. A healthy build-up of tissue over time will lead to improvement of your fitness. However, if the breakdown occurs more rapidly than the build-up, overuse injuries occur. So before you carry on with your training regime, pay attention to the following to avoid long term wear and damages to your health.

First things first, what causes overuse injuries?

1. Overexertion

Overexertion occurs when you push your body past its ability to heal. To put it simply, when you take on too much physical activity too quickly, you can hurt yourself. Pushing too hard and too soon compromises your body’s ability to bounce back.

2. Bad form

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Training errors, or bad form, occur when you are doing a sport or activity wrongly and are likely to increase if you are rapidly accelerating the intensity, duration, or frequency of the activity. Other errors include the using the wrong set of equipment, especially shoes, and applying the wrong techniques for certain moves.

Do’s and Dont’s to Stay Health and Fit

We here bring you 5 of the most common exercise mistakes that can lead to injury, and tips on how to avoid them.

1. Invest in learning proper techniques

An overuse injury is often caused by doing a sport or activity wrongly. Proper technique is critical. Like any other sport, running is not as simple as you might think. Whether you are only now picking it up, or you are aiming to ramp up your training, do consider seeking coaching, or at least do some research on proper body form. Learning to use the correct technique can do wonders to prevent overuse injuries. On top of that, you should also make sure you are using the right equipment: always opt for well-maintained shoes. When your shoes wear down, you lose proper support and that can contribute to overuse injuries. You should aim to replace your shoes at least twice a year if you work out regularly.

2. Preparation is the mother of victory

Going for a health check-up before starting a new sport or participating in a sports event is an important yet oft-neglected safety measure. To make sure you’re ready to safely begin a sport, you should have a pre-participation physical evaluation. You may have muscular imbalances or medical conditions that can make you more predisposed to developing an overuse injury.

Once you get cleared to start a sport or physical activity, you should always remember to warm up and cool down before and after every activity. This is the one all-important step athletes tend to underestimate or overlook. A dynamic stretching warm-up of 5 – 10 minutes and a static stretching routine for 5 – 10 minutes at the end of the activity will do you wonders in avoiding injuries.

3. Spread out your exercise and don’t forget to rest

A common mistake is compressing a week’s worth of physical activity into the weekend. That can easily lead to overuse injuries. Instead, try to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on a more frequent basis.

Pacing yourself in such a way can give your muscles time to recover from the physical stress and avoid overexertion and unnecessary stress to your immune system. It is advisable to take at least 1 day off per week to recover physically and mentally.

4. Take it easy

It is easy to get carried away by your enthusiasm, especially when you are new to a sport. However, pushing yourself too hard and too soon will strain your body past its capacity to repair and rebuild tissue fast enough, leading to an overuse injury. The 10% rule is very helpful in determining how to take things to the ‘next level’. In general, you should not increase your training programme or workout intensity more than 10% per week. This rule applies to increasing pace or mileage for walkers and runners, as well as to the amount of weight added in strength training.

Here comes the “10% rule”; a very helpful gauge in determining how to take things to the next level. In general, you should not increase your training programme or workout intensity more than 10% per week. This applies to increasing pace or mileage for walkers and runners, as well as to the amount of weight added in strength training.

Easing into your fitness routine will help you continue to stay active for years to come, so don’t try to do too much too soon. Beginners should aim for at least 2 and a half hours of moderate activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity over the course of a week.

5. Mix it up

Doing too much of the same activity can strain your body and lead to an overuse injury. If you are addicted to a specific sport, then it’s time to switch things up. Incorporate workouts to increase strength, flexibility and core stability in order to engage different muscle groups and ensure no one muscle group is overstrained. Try to find something appealing to you, or tag along with friends who are into different activities, be it cycling, swimming, rock climbing or zumba!

Last but not least, learn to listen to your body. Pain, for example, can be both a good and bad thing. It can mean you’ve successfully engaged the muscles you’ve set out to train, or it can mean you’ve overworked yourself.

Remember, your goal should be to become a well-rounded athlete who can enjoy regular activity for a lifetime. Don’t allow an overuse injury to set you back.


Adapted, with permission, from an article by Dr David Su, orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. This article first appeared on Health Plus.
Sponsored by Mount Elizabeth Hospitals
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