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Avoiding fitness overuse injuries

Thinking of starting a new physical activity program or ramping up your current training routine? If so, you may be at risk of an overuse injury — which could ultimately cause more harm than good and sideline you from your fitness program.

An overuse injury is any type of muscle or joint injury, such as tendinitis or a stress fracture, that’s caused by repetitive trauma. An overuse injury typically stems from:

Training errors: Training errors can occur when you take on too much physical activity too quickly. Going too fast, exercising for too long or simply doing too much of one type of activity can strain your muscles and lead to an overuse injury.

Technique errors: Improper technique also can take its toll on your body. If you use poor form as you do a set of strength training exercises, swing a golf club or throw a baseball, for example, you may overload certain muscles and cause an overuse injury.

Although an overuse injury can happen to anyone, you may be more prone to this type of injury if you have certain medical conditions. Overuse injuries are also more likely to occur as you get older — especially if you don’t recognize the impact aging can have on your body and modify your routine accordingly. Always speak with your doctor first before starting a new activity or ramping up your current routine.

To prevent an overuse injury:

Use proper form and gear. Spending a little on a personal trainer can save you a lot on medical bills. These people are trained to teach you the best methods for your personal needs. Replace your shoes at least twice a year or more often depending on how often you work out.

Pace yourself. If you’re starting a new fitness program, avoid becoming a weekend warrior. Compressing your physical activity for the week into two days can lead to an overuse injury. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.

If you don’t have time for a full 30 minutes, you can break it down into three 10-minute blocks. It’s also a good idea to take time to warm up before physical activity and cool down afterward. Avoid stretching until your muscles are warmed up.

Gradually increase your activity level. When changing the intensity or duration of a physical activity, do so gradually.

Mix up your routine with cross training. Instead of focusing on one type of exercise, build variety into your fitness program. Doing a variety of low-impact activities — such as walking, biking, swimming and water jogging — can help prevent overuse injuries by allowing your body to use different muscle groups and not overload any one particular group. And be sure to include strength training for the major muscle groups in your arms, legs and core at least twice a week.

Remember the old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race”? Take it easy, build your fitness routine and you will enjoy the results of a better you. Stay healthy, my friends.

Jody Holton writes about health for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com