January is a busy time for orthopaedic surgeons. Not only is there a higher risk of injury at this time of year due to icy weather conditions, but there is also the “New Year Resolutions factor”, which sees many people redoubling their efforts to get fit after the indulgences of the Festive season. Unfortunately, this creates a double-whammy, as any sudden increase in exercising intensity increases the risk of injury and when this is combined with a period of inactivity (over the Christmas break) the risk is higher still.
We see many different types of exercise-related injuries, including tendinopathy, strains, sprains and even fractures. And, as much as we would welcome you to our clinic if you do get an injury, there are some simple steps you can take to ease yourself into (or back into) your January fitness regime.
1. Take it steadily
Although it can be tempting to put yourself through a punishing regime in order to “get fit quick”, this can be a recipe for disaster. If you haven’t exercised for a while – even for a few days over Christmas – your muscles will be out of condition and pushing them too hard can result in strains and tears. It is important to start slowly and build up gradually.
2. Vary your Exercises
Doing too much of the same type of exercise can put your muscles under excessive strain. Try to vary cardiovascular exercises with something like weight training to give yourself a balanced workout. Keep the weights at a manageable level, though, while you build up your strength.
3. Work with a Trainer
One of the best ways to ensure you are getting a properly balanced workout is to work with a personal trainer who can tailor something specifically for you. A workout should include strengthening exercises, as well as cardiovascular and stretches. Strengthening exercises are an important way of avoiding injuries. Studies show they can reduce overuse injuries by 50% and acute injuries by 30%.
4. Intersperse high intensity exercise with rest
If you do participate in high intensity interval training, such as Crossfit, it is vital that you rest in between sessions rather than doing this type of exercise every day. You can choose a more gentle form of exercise in between – such as yoga or pilates – to give your muscles time to recover or simply rest.
5. Be realistic
Setting unrealistically high targets can force you to push yourself too hard. And, if you don’t meet your targets, it can lead to a sense of failure, which is counter-productive. Setting realistic targets, in terms of fitness and weight-loss, can help you to work towards achievable goals and inspire you to keep going.
6. Eat healthily and stay hydrated
Make sure that your New Year fitness regime includes eating a healthy, balanced diet, as your body needs to be well-nourished and hydrated if you are embarking on a fitness regime.
If you do injure yourself (even a minor injury), it is important to rest the injured area, even though you may be trying to push yourself harder as you don’t want to fail at the first hurdle of your new year regime.
Following the RICE method – rest, ice, compression and elevation (above the level of your heart) – can help to reduce swelling immediately after injury.
If pain and swelling persists, or you are unable to put weight on the injured limb, you should seek medical advice as continuing to use it could lead to further injury.