Exercise & Fitness

PT: Expert Insight Tim Bray

A workout a day keeps injury at bay, if it’s done correctly. Local PT Tim Bray gives tips for injury prevention.

{Q} I’m in my 30s. Although I like to work out and jog, I don’t play organized sports.Am I still at risk for injury?

Yes, though it is a much lower risk. You would most likely be susceptible to repetitive-use injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome or lateral epicondylitis, otherwise known as tennis elbow. The best protection from these types of injuries is to mix up your workout routine. Also, if you enjoy jogging, make sure and alternate between running on the road and running on a track or other flat area, such as a treadmill. Here’s why—there is a crown built into every paved road to allow water to run off the road. As you run on the edge of the road (which should be the left edge), your left leg will be just a little below the right leg, and over time, you could develop knee pain. The hard pavement can take a toll on your knees, as well.

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{Q} I can only devote 30 minutes a day to exercise. Do I have to warm up and cool down? If I had to choose one or the other, what is more important?

This is a good question that inspires significant debate. Many factors play into a proper answer. If your exercise routine is walking, there is no plausible reason to warm up or cool down. However, if your routine is an energetic cardiovascular workout or a routine that involves advanced progressive resistive exercise, then it is more important to allow just a few minutes to increase the blood flow to the muscles prior to your routine. The warm-up should include a few slow, sustained stretches to the body parts you intend to work on. Although warming up before your exercise is more important, be creative in thinking of ways to cool down. Do a few shoulder rolls or neck circles on your walk to your car. One of the main purposes of a cool-down period is to reduce the onset of soreness after the workout.

{Q} When should I stretch during exercise? Are there stretches I should not do to avoid injury?

A person should almost always stretch prior to his or her exercise routine. Understand and embrace the idea that a good stretching routine can be a workout. Flexibility is one of the key components of longevity and mobility. Refrain from stretching if you have any premorbid medical conditions that may be contraindicated for that specific area, such as a joint replacement, pregnancy, recent surgical incision sites or disc herniations. Always check with your doctor or physical therapist first if you have concerns about a specific area of your body.

{Q} Besides warm-up, cool-down and stretching, what are the most important activities to prevent injury?

Varying exercise routine is the best activity a person can do to prevent injury, and it keeps the workout fun and exciting. If you enjoy a good strengthening program, add an agility move to one or two of the strengthening exercises. Do this to help prevent overuse injuries.

{Q} How do I tell the difference between soreness from an active workout versus pain related to an injury?

Soreness and pain both hurt, and a person can usually tell the difference between what we in the profession call “good hurt” and “bad hurt.” There are, indeed, characteristics of a bad hurt or pain related to injury, such as sharp pains, stabbing pains or pains that radiate or shoot to other areas of the body. Pain associated with injury will almost always be coupled with swelling, as well. If the pain you feel is soreness, it will usually subside within a day or two after the exercise.