Have I Warmed Up?
One of the big reasons sports injuries occur is that we force our bodies to take on more force or exertion than they are prepared to handle at the time. Taking a few minutes to warm up before a strenuous activity is a good way to help your body adjust to a higher gear.
You might imagine a warm-up as a series of stretches you hold in place for a while, but a better way to warm up is through “dynamic stretching.” These incorporate more movement, and can take the form of some light jogging, jumping jacks, and lunges, among other exercises. The stretches you hold in place (static stretching) make for a better cool-down period.
How’s My Technique?
Form and technique are not just for looking good. Knowing the proper ways to move, stand, and absorb forces will not only reduce your risk of injury, but often improve your overall performance and results as well.
Good form is not something that is always picked up automatically. It can take a period of mindful diligence before it becomes second nature. That focus will be well worth it, though.
If you have questions about technique and form, it is best to seek out a coach, fitness expert, or personal trainer for answers.
Am I Pacing Myself?
Personal goals are a great way to push yourself and stay motivated, but they should be reasonable.
Pushing yourself too far beyond what your body is currently conditioned to do – or forcing yourself to take on too much repetitive stress over time without proper rest and recovery – is an easy ticket to injury.
Anytime you begin a new activity, it is best to start off at a lower intensity – even one lower than you might feel you can do. Once you set a base level, you can gradually increase intensity over time to a level that pushes you without going overboard. A good general rule is to increase overall intensity no more than 10-15% per week, as measured in weight, time, or distance.