While it is nearly impossible to go injury free in your training lifetime, there are plenty of ways to decrease the risk of damage to your body. Prehab is a great way to do this as it targets the weaker parts of the body that are more likely to be injured during exercise. As the saying goes: ‘prevention is better than cure’.
It should be treated as a key part of every athlete’s training, with warm-up stretches and cool-down exercises taking as much importance as the main work – after all, you’re only as strong as the weakest link in your body.
Why do we need prehab?
The most important thing to remember when doing any exercise is to listen to your body and understand its capabilities. While you may want to push yourself to lift that little bit extra or run that one last kilometre, sometimes it isn’t always the best idea. The minute you start to feel any pain you should stop.
You can’t simply ‘push through the pain’ as over-training is one of the main causes of sports-related injuries. It overuses your muscles and builds micro-trauma that can mount up and cause a bigger issue over time.
Prehab ultimately works to limit the number of injuries you pick up during exercises, allowing your body to work harder for longer – which in turn will result in better performance.
What does prehab look like?
Stretching and moving our bodies is a crucial way to warm our muscles up to the stress and pressure they are about to endure during a workout. In short, that is what prehab is.
Before hitting the weight section at the gym (or home gym) for some early-morning heavy lifting, you should prepare your body by training the smaller, core-based foundation muscles. This will help to ‘wake up’ your muscles and prepare you for the workout that lies ahead.
If you are new to the gym, start with a stretch class or a low-impact cardio machine to build up your joint health. Going headfirst into a ‘smash and grab’ HIIT class can leave you out of action for a lot longer than expected.
Variation is key with prehab – improving your flexibility and endurance (cardiovascular fitness) is just as essential as working on your strength. As an athlete, you will need all of these elements to perform at your best. High impact exercises should be trained less frequently, as they can be tough on the joints and tendons.
What should you do if an injury occurs?
If you find yourself injured, the best method to follow is RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation – but this all depends on the severity of the injury. The first thing you should always do is seek a diagnosis and then guidance from a sports or physiotherapist. They will be able to give you a good recovery timeline and a plan for how you can support the injured area, whilst staying fit – if this is an option.
Movement is medicine for sports-related injuries, even if it’s as simple as wiggling your toes. The rehab journey, sadly, won’t happen overnight – it will be full of ups and downs, regressions and progressions, happy days and bad days. The most important thing again is to listen to your body and take rest days when you need them.
Why cardiovascular machines are great for rehab.
Low impact cardio machines, such as the Versaclimber, do wonders for your joints, discs and ligaments and help to slowly build up the intensity and resistance as you recover. The Versaclimber can be adjusted to focus on different areas of the body and training, from upper body strength exercises to mobility and cardio. Certain models such as the, Sportsmedical, are specifically designed for injury recovery.