Unfortunately, during the pandemic, it has become more difficult to participate in organized sports in Atlanta whether recreational or competitive. People have changed their routines to incorporate more home workouts and fewer group classes. There are benefits to varying workouts and changing routines that will help prevent injuries in the long run. When things finally return to normal it will be helpful to have established good habits to prevent injury when returning to sports.
It may seem obvious that overall fitness helps to prevent injury but not everyone has the same outlook when it comes to what fitness means. Many focus on pure aerobic conditioning while others are more of a strength focus with aesthetics being the final goal.
No matter the sport, it is important to have both a good aerobic base in addition to excellent core strength. Repetitive activities such as running often result in overuse injuries such as stress fractures or iliotibial band syndrome. Focusing on cross-training in between runs will help to prevent injury and actually help boost performance.
Conversely, aerobic fitness will also help strength athletes by increasing circulating blood volume and hematocrit, helping to deliver more oxygen to muscle tissue during a workout.
Stretching has historically been recommended before athletic activity but there is evidence to show that static stretching actually predisposes to injuries. There has been a paradigm shift to focus on a dynamic warm-up before competition followed by stretching to improve flexibility after the workout or competition.
There is no question that flexibility helps performance but when improved over a long period of time it also likely helps prevent injuries often seen in aging athletes such as low back pain and shoulder impingement.
During the days of COVID-19, it has been more difficult to control diet but it is one of the most important factors in preventing injury and helping performance. Moderation is the key with a focus on a varied diet with a balance of macronutrients.
Appropriate caloric intake will vary from person to person and depend on exercise levels. The primary determinant of caloric needs will be muscle mass. The more lean muscle mass someone has the more calories they will burn over the course of the day. Doing balanced strength training will help to rev up the metabolism in all athletes.
Hydration is also key in these hot summer months. Be sure to drink regularly particularly when exercising outside. Staying hydrated will prevent cramping, muscle strain, and even kidney damage in more extreme situations.
Everyone has a different capacity for work. Whatever your sport or form of exercise it is important to not go too fast too soon.
If running, gradually increase mileage and pace so that your body can adapt to the changing work-load. If strength training, increase weight slowly to allow tendons to strengthen and also to give time for your antagonist muscle groups to catch up.
Using common-sense approaches to training will help to prevent injuries when the Atlanta area (and world) returns to normal, and we can get back to the sports we love.