Everyone’s an athlete these days. Not a “proper” pro, but someone who has chosen a sport, dedicates time and money to it, and uses it for stress relief, to keep healthy and even to socialise.
Our bodies are not the same at 48 as they are at 18 – even though we may think they are! For this reason, it’s vital that as a “casual athlete” you prepare properly so that you don’t end up injuring yourself and putting yourself out of action.
Here are some safety and training tips for all you casual athletes to consider:
Get the right equipment
Not having the correct shoes, bicycle, water bottle or wetsuit may mean the difference between exercising safely and enjoyably, versus injuring yourself and hating the experience. Using running as an example: there are shoes that are fine for shorter distances such as 5km or 10km races, but for longer distances, you’ll need ones with extra cushioning and support. This is an example of why it’s important to head to a store that has knowledgeable staff who can help you decide on the right equipment.
It’s also a good idea to chat to a friend who already spends time doing the sport you’re interested i and getting some personal advice. Also, make sure you’re really committed to the sport before you spend a whole heap of money and become that guy “with all the gear and no idea”.
Master your technique
Lifting weights, holding a paddle, hitting a golf ball – any sport requires a certain technique and if you get this wrong at the start, it’s that much harder to correct it later on. With this in mind, it’s worth going for a few lessons to learn from an expert so that you can hone your technique and get going in the best possible way.
We’re not just talking a quick touch of the toes here. Get to know your body and its weaker points and then make sure you’ve stretched those hamstrings, that lower back, or your stiff calves before you set off. Stretching before and after your exercise, as well as at night before bed, is a great way to help limit any adverse effects.
Mix it up
Bodies that are pursuing rigorous cardio routines also need to build strength and lengthen muscles, if you want to prevent injury. In fact, most sports specialists advocate mixing up your exercise routine for optimal performance. For example, find a form of yoga that you enjoy and head there once or twice a week – and watch as your flexibility, strength and mental performance increases in leaps and bounds. Pilates is also great for dealing with injuries, strengthening your core and giving you an awareness of how to move your body. Looking for a fun way to indulge in physical activity? Consider signing up for the Fedhealth IMPI challenge which includes a variety of obstacles designed to test you physically and mentally as you navigate over 20km of hills, water, ropes and walls! It’s held throughout the country from early April until November.
Build it up
Start small and then work towards your goals. There are many online training routines available for free, so download one that you’ve heard good things about and then get started. If you race out the blocks too fast you’re bound to tire yourself out or injure yourself, so start small (but think big;).
Twisted ankle? Sore knee? Don’t push through the pain – you’ll be sorry later.
For minor injuries like these, the well-known RICE method still works for most people: Rest, put Ice on the injury, Compress the injured area with an ankle brace or similar and then Elevate it. If that doesn’t work, head to your doctor for a proper examination.
How do you ensure you stay safe an injury-free during your workouts?
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Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.