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Tips for Injury Prevention and Damage Control

One of the most frustrating experiences for an active person is injury. Bad news first—injury has the potential to derail even the most dedicated of exercisers, and sometimes, end activity all together. The upside is that most injuries can be prevented by being mindful of some simple strategies in the following section. If you do become injured, you may be able to treat yourself with a little guidance, but when  in doubt, see a physician for specific treatment recommendations. Pay attention to your body and listen to early warning signs (recurring aches and pains, swelling, inflammation, and so on) to avoid the hassle, headache, and pain of serious injury.

Warming Up, Cooling Down, and Getting Limber
The purpose of a warmup is to prepare your body for the real work. Compare it to preheating your oven—you wouldn’t just throw that banana bread batter in a cold oven, turn it on, and expect an award-winning loaf, would you? Warming up allows your body temperature to increase slightly, loosens your joints and muscles, allows your heart and lungs to operate efficiently, reduces your risk of injury, and mentally helps prepare you for the exercise.
The key to a proper warmup is to take it nice and easy. The intensity during warmup should be light—you don’t want to be huffing and puffing in the first 30 seconds. Walking and easy cycling are excellent choices. The goal is to elevate your heart and breathing rate slightly, and maybe even (gasp!) start to sweat a little.
You’re the best judge as to how long you should warm up. Some people are raring to go after a couple of minutes; others like to ease into their workout after 5 to 10 min- utes of warming up. Listen to your body and respond appropriately.
Now let’s assume that you’re approaching the end of your workout. You’re breathing hard, pouring sweat, and feeling amazing, but don’t stop now! A 3- to 10-minute cool down allows your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature to gradu- ally return to a pre-exercise condition. The cool down should mimic your warmup— keep performing your activity, but bring the intensity back down slowly until you feel ready to come to a complete stop.
Theories on stretching techniques abound, but the following guidelines hold true regardless of the specifics:
  • Stretch after your warm up or after your entire exercise session to avoid injury caused by pulling cold, tight muscles.
  • Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale fully and deeply to relax your mus- cles and increase your range of motion.
  • Stretch only to the point of mild tension or discomfort. If it hurts, stop—you may be performing the movement incorrectly or too intensely for your cur- rent level of flexibility.
  • Avoid locking your joints—keep your knees and elbows slightly bent to prevent injury.
  • Stretch with slow, controlled movements and hold the stretch for at least 10 to 15 seconds; avoid jerking or bouncing.
Okay, the next session will be presented on the example of warming-up exercises
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