How to avoid injury: A diehard’s guide to playing hard

If you love to train hard, whether it’s pumping iron in vein-popping loads, punishing cross fit training sessions or running killer marathons, you have to know that you’re playing on the edge in terms of injury. But this doesn’t mean you have to stop what you’re doing. It does mean however, that you have to be mindful of the hazards and how to avoid them. Here are five hard core workout activities with tips about how to stay on top – and not at the doctor.

Cross fit
Cross fit training is an intense strength and conditioning program consisting of various aerobic exercises, bodyweight exercises and weight lifting. It is described as “constantly varying functional movements executed at high intensity across broad model and time domains”. Its aim is to improve cardio fitness, as well as strength and conditioning. In group cross training classes, each participant uses a collection of accessories such as exercise mats, steps, resistance bands, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells or medicine balls, skipping ropes or other workout accessories.

crossfit training injury - Sage Institute of Fitness

It’s no doubt that cross fit can be effective, but the risk of injury is high. In the UK, it is estimated that every year over 70% of cross fitters will be sidelined for over a week due to injury from the sport (Hak, Hodzovic & Hickey 2014). The majority of those injured will be suffering from shoulder problems. Other common cross fit injuries are back and knee injuries.

To avoid injury with cross fit, make sure you start gradually. The amount of intensity and repetition of exercises involving the shoulder and upper body can be significant. If you are relatively unfit, you may even decide to “walk through” the exercises without only small weights to begin with.

Ensure that your shoulder girdle is in good alignment and not distorted forward through poor posture or tightened muscles. Good myofascial release techniques, massage and stretching are recommended – both on the shoulder area and your spine before (and after) you undertake in this activity. Knees are also subject to considerable strain in this workout, so minimise the amount of deep squats if you’re a beginner, or if your knees are sore, and build up slowly.

avoid powerlifting injury - Sage FitnessPowerlifting requires explosive power and excellent technical ability. To achieve success in this sport, individuals have to expose their bodies to extreme stress. To train for the sport, powerlifters’ bodies undergo painful muscle tearing and extreme tendon stresses as their bodies adapt to the exercises. Even with the best training and all the care in the world, the muscle tearing is considered “part of the game”. Unfortunately, to undertake this highly competitive sport you have to put your body under extremely challenging conditions.

The gap between progression and injury is a fine one. The three main lifts: the bench, squat and then lift are not activities that the body should be doing regularly, yet this is what powerlifters do to compete. The body can only withstand so much stress before it starts to complain.

Make sure you adhere to your training regime, never over-train or train when you are stiff or tired and finally – accept that things could go wrong. It’s likely that sooner or later you are going to have to spend some time on the side.

running injury - Sage Institute of FitnessThe verdict is not clear on this activity. Some experts claim that running is a healthy activity that more people should be benefiting from, while others complain that it is one of the most debilitating forms of exercise. If you want to run, make sure you start your running program slowly, you have good biomechanics, and you are not running with an injury. Keep a sensible limit on the distances that you cover, to avoid excessive wear and tear on the body. Alternatively, try a combination of walking and running, where your body is challenged enough to spike your metabolism, but with a built in recovery period of walking to lessen the chance of injury.

avoid bodybuilding injury - Sage FitnessAlthough many elite bodybuilders work under strict supervision with intelligently compiled programs, bodybuilding is an activity that can certainly lead to serious injuries and health problems. The most obvious issue that comes to mind is the abuse of steroids to create excess muscle tissue and enhance performance. Use of steroids can have detrimental effects on the entire body, including liver abnormalities, tumours, high blood pressure, severe acne and increased risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture. It can also greatly compromise an individual’s movement patterns, flexibility, overall symmetry and coordination.

As bodybuilding focuses on active muscle isolation, rather than synergistic movements (requiring several muscles), there can be damaging effects including an increased rate of muscular adhesions and intramuscular scar tissue formation in the body. When there is more scar tissue, there is greater dysfunction due to inflexibility and less desirable movement patterning.

For those wishing to do bodybuilding and use performance enhancing drugs, expect serious health problems. Those going for the clean approach should be mindful of muscle imbalances causing movement problems and joint instability. Check in regularly with your physical and massage therapists to address issues regarding muscle adhesions, scar tissue build up and muscle tightening – and be sensible.

Hak, Paul Taro, Hodzovic, Emil and Hickey, Ben. “The nature and prevalence of injury during CrossFit training”. Feb 23, 2014,

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Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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