12 August 2009

Injury-proof your workout

Avoid six sports-related scrapes and sores with these simple tweaks.


Fitness should boost your body, not break it down. “Most nagging injuries are caused by pressure, friction or tension,” says physical therapist Sean Collins. Adjust your approach with this guide.

Problem: burning eyes from swimming

Even if you suction pumped your goggles to your eye sockets, chlorine-infused water could still infiltrate during your flip turns.

Before kicking off the wall, squeeze your outstretched arms against your ears and lead with the top of your head. “This creates a hole in the water that your body can flow through,” says swimming and diving coach Richard Quick. You’ll minimize drag and keep your goggles glued down.

Problem: discomfort from the squat bar

The metal bar, combined with the pressure of the weight and insufficient cushioning, can rub the bony vertebra at the base of your neck.

Position the bar one or two centimeters lower than you usually would, to take pressure off the bony protrusion, says exercise physiologist Joseph Warpeha. If the bar has no padding, wrap a gym towel around it or swop it for a pair of dumbbells.

Problem: tender skin after pull-ups

The portion of thicker flesh just below your fingers jams beneath the pressure of holding the bar, pinching the flesh with every shift in weight.

To reduce this kind of skin abuse, “slide your hand up to the bar to push the fleshy part down and out of the way so it doesn’t get pinched,” says Collins. Be sure to grip the bar at the crease where your fingers meet your palms, and then wrap your fingers around it.

Problem: bloody boxing knuckles

Skilled boxers throw punches fast and frequently. But your skin doesn’t always toughen as quickly as your muscles do.

Build tolerance by hitting the bag harder but less frequently and for shorter time frames, says professor of applied physiology Julien Baker. If you usually punch for three minutes at 50 percent strength, say, try one minute at full strength until your knuckles can last longer.

Problem: tennis thumb blisters

You have those nasty fluid bubbles because you’re gripping your racquet too hard, causing friction between your skin and the handle.

Relax your hand. You’ll hit with surprisingly greater racquet speed while reducing post-match pain, says professor of exercise physiology Kris Berg. You can increase your sessions to Nadal-like lengths after your skin has developed tolerance.

Problem: dead lift skin scrapes

The Rough gripping area of the bar (called the knurling) drags against your legs as you lift, grating your skin.

Before lift-off, “position your shoulders in front of the bar and your shoulder blades directly over the bar,” says associate professor of health and exercise sciences Alexander Koch. You’ll avoid pulling the bar into your shins, resulting in a cleaner, safer lift.

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