How to prevent sports injuries and burnout

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When you’re trying to lose weight one of the last things you want is to be sidelined as a result of sports injuries or burnout.

However, that’s what often happens when people take the wrong approach with their workouts.

In the quest to lose weight quickly, a lot of people approach their exercise program with an ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset, which greatly increases your risk of sustaining an injury and causing you to burn out.

But there is another way.

What is burnout?

We all know what an injury is, but what does it mean to be burned out?

Burnout is simply a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion, which is caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

This stress can be caused by trying to fit too much into your schedule, particularly unrealistic workout schedules. Exercise is also a stress which is designed to change your body. However, doing too much can increase your stress levels too much, which will end up backfiring on you, increasing your risk of injury and burnout.

Burnout causes you to feel overwhelmed, helpless, exhausted, moody and increasingly negative. It’s often what leads people to give up on their goals.

Signs of burnout

If you can relate to any of the following, you’re probably experiencing burnout.

  • You procrastinate
  • Your results have plateaued
  • You’re unmotivated
  • You feel exhausted most of the time
  • You get sick often, or never really recover from illness
  • You’re more tired after your workout than before
  • Your exercise program no longer excites you
  • Bad technique is creeping into your workouts
  • You feel like you’ve ‘hit the wall’
  • You begin skipping sessions
  • You fantasise about having time off exercise
  • You’re not as strong as you were
  • You feel overwhelmed and everything seems ‘too hard’
  • It seems that everything goes wrong at once
  • You feel helpless and become less coachable
  • You don’t think there is anything you can do to get you out of this situation
  • You want to give up
  • You lose your appetite or find eating ‘too hard’
  • You’re moody and irritable.

As you can see, burnout isn’t much fun.

While regular exercise is vital for overall health and an improved body shape, going too hard, too quickly, or for too long without rest is a recipe for disaster. Your body and mind can only take so much and there will come a point when the physical and mental stress will begin to trigger a range of symptoms that will lead to burnout.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. By taking a different approach to what you’ve been taught, you can remain consistent with your exercise, get amazing results and avoid burnout and any kind of sports injury.

How to avoid sports injuries and burnout

Start small and build up

When setting out to lose weight, many people go from no exercise to trying to exercise every day. This dramatically increases your risk for injury and burning out. Instead, start out slowly and build from there. It may be that you start walking 2-3 times a week and gradually increase the duration and/or number of walks. If you’re training at the gym, aim for 2 x 45-minute focused sessions, instead of daily sessions of 1-2 hours where you’re not focused. If you’re lifting weights, focus on small and progressive increases in weight each week, instead of making big weight increases. When you work with a coach, they will be able to provide you with the right advice on what type of training and how much will suit you.

Make time for rest and recovery

Sleeping, resting and allowing time for recovery is vital if you want to be consistent with your exercise and avoid being sidelined. Adequate rest means you’ll recover properly from your exercise session, which means you’ll be able to turn up to the next one. Sleep will allow your body to rejuvenate and repair itself, as well as decrease your stress levels. It will also mean you’re focused and ready to train at each session, and when you’re focused and concentrate on what you’re doing, you’ll get better results and reduce the risk of injury.

Avoid training week in, week out without a break. You should factor in structured rest time into your training schedule in order to optimise your training. No, this will not slow your results, nor will you lose strength and fitness, or gain weight. What you will do however, is rest your body sufficiently, so you come back with more energy, more strength and more focus.

At Imani Tribe, we understand the importance of rest and recovery which is why we train for 10 weeks, and then have 2 weeks off. The 2 weeks off are classified as ‘active recovery’ — walking, swimming, cycling — basically doing less intense movement designed to reduce stress and help us recover.

During our training blocks, we also include a de-load week (where we train at less intensity), in order to help us stay consistent and avoid becoming tired. This means that when we come back, we’re stronger than before and can get the most out of our workouts, which optimises results.

Eat for recovery

Don’t fall into the diet trap of trading exercise for food or limiting your food intake to ensure a larger ‘calorie burn’, or by using exercise as a justification to eat junk food. Your body needs the proper fuel to do a workout in the first place, and it also needs proper nutrition to allow you to recover from your session. Ensure you eat before and after exercise to prime your body with the right fuel. The right workout meals will not only ensure you get the most out of your session while you’re exercising, but they will help you optimise your results and recovery. Remember, the best and fastest results don’t happen to those who smash out their workouts, but to those who consistently recover from each session.

Invest in your recovery

Recovery isn’t just limited to eating the right foods. It’s important to be pro-active about recovering from your sessions by looking after your body physically.  Relax your body or iron out any tight spots and niggles through remedial massage, myotherapy, physiotherapy, sauna, spa, cryotherapy, or by visiting a float tank. Your body and your mind will thank you for it.

Do the right exercise

Many people focus on cardio exercise when they want to lose weight, but a combination of small amounts of cardio, teamed with resistance exercise (weight training), and low-impact movement (e.g. walking) will give you the right results. Focusing on the one type of exercise will not only become boring after a while, but you’ll greatly increase your risk of an over-use injury. When doing any exercise, always focus on performing it with the right technique. Poor form is a major contributor to injury so forget about lifting heavy and focus on lifting correctly.

Warm up properly

Warming up before your session is crucial. Warming up prepares your mind and your body for your session. When you warm up properly, your muscles are ready to go, and you reduce the chance of injury. When your mind is focused, you’ll get more out of your workout. Warm your body up with dynamic stretches, use a foam roller, massage balls, and roll out any tight spots.

When lifting weights, avoid going straight into lifting your working set. You should perform a few warm-up sets to get your mind and body ready. At Imani Tribe, our warm up for our FIRE sessions is:

  • 12 reps at 20% of your working weight
  • 10 reps at 40% of your working weight
  • 6 reps at 60% of your working weight
  • 3 reps at 80% of your working weight
  • 1 rep at your working weight.

After you have completed this warm-up for your first exercise, perform your working sets. This warm-up is only done for the pinnacle exercise (main compound exercise).

Use proper technique

Lifting weights with incorrect technique is very common. This is usually because people compromise good technique for their ego. It might also happen when people see other people lifting weights (with poor form) and copy them, because they don’t want to invest in their own coach. However, investing in good coach will mean that you’ll be shown the correct technique from the start. You won’t get into training habits that will lead to injury, and you’ll fast-track your results. Performing exercises correctly will change your body shape quicker, and you’ll likely stay injury-free, which means you’ll be more consistent with your training.

Progress your exercise

We’ve already talked about gradually increasing the intensity, duration and weights of your exercise. But you also need to progress the complexity of these movements. There are loads of videos on Youtube showing you how to lift weights, but what these don’t tell you is that often these are advanced exercises suitable for someone who has been working out for a while. Avoid following these and start with the basic movements. Once you have mastered these, you can progress to an intermediate level of exercise, moving onto advanced only when you have the strength and form to do so. This is why working with a good coach is so important. They can guide you through this process, ensuring that you become familiar with the movements, and increase the complexity of movement, without it leading to injury.

Wear appropriate workout gear

It might sound obvious but make sure you wear appropriate clothing to work out in. Avoid clothing that will rub, restrict movement, and won’t breathe. Similarly, ensure your footwear is appropriate for your activity, and provides proper support and stability.

Apply the ‘less is more’ principle

When you over-train you will burn out, and you’ll increase the risk of injury. You’ll also short-circuit your results. Your exercise routine needs to be sustainable and enjoyable, because if it’s not, you won’t be consistent and you won’t get the results you’re after. We recommend only spending 3% of your week exercising. This will allow you plenty of time to rest and recover, eat for nourishment and to spend time with your family. Our clients have discovered that less is more — by doing less exercise, they’re getting more (and better) results.

Address your niggles

If you have a niggle or a pain in a particular muscle group, don’t ignore it! Most of the time this a signal that an opposing muscle group is either not activating or weak. For example, if your hip flexors are tight sometimes it means your glutes are not activating or you have weak glutes. This should be discussed with your trainer and appropriate health professional. Other reasons you might experience pain include poor form, overtraining leading to an over-use of a particular muscle, it might even mean that you’re not eating and recovering well enough. Don’t push through pain. The old saying ‘no pain, no gain’ is not true. Pushing through when you experience any level of pain can lead to an injury that will take longer to heal. Visit an appropriate health professional to get your pain assessed. Most of the time, you’ll need to assess why you have pain and where it’s originating from, before you start treatment. Failure to do this will mean the issue will continue to keep happening.

Strengthen your weaknesses

Everyone has weak spots. Some people may have a weak core, lower back issue, some may have flexibility and mobility issues, some may find it hard to engage the correct muscles, and others may have old injuries. Whatever your weakness is, you need to work on it instead of ignoring it. If you fail to work on your weak areas, they become your weakest links, and prone to injuries. When you strengthen your weaker areas, you’ll also get better results out of your workout because you’ll be engaging your muscles correctly, and will be able to perform your workout with the correct form.

Listen to your body

Have you ever felt too tired to work out? Or felt a bit run-down or sick, and wished you didn’t have to exercise? And have you ever pushed through regardless? Pushing through when you’re injured, sick or tired should be avoided. You won’t perform at your optimal levels, you won’t be focused, you’ll be increasing your risk of injury, and you’ll be on the downhill slide into burnout sooner than you realise.

It’s okay to rest when you need to rest. It’s okay to skip training if you’re sick. Injury, however, isn’t an excuse to ditch your workout completely. Instead, modify your sessions and focus on what you can do. If you’re working with a coach, they will be able to provide alternative exercises for the ones that you can’t do.

But remember, if you sustain an acute injury, seek the advice of an appropriate health professional. In some cases, resting for the first few days is the best treatment.

Ditch the diet mindset

Not listening to your body, pushing through when you’re tired or injured, and worrying about gaining weight if you rest is a key habit that belongs to the diet mindset. Stop worrying that everything has to be perfect, and that you have to get to all your sessions no matter what. Focus on what you can do and do your best. Similarly, avoid using exercise as a trade-off for food, a way to burn calories, or as a way to punish yourself for eating. Start thinking about exercise as a tool that will help strengthen your body, build your metabolism, and help you lose weight and keep it off.

Record data

As we saw in a previous blog, recording data is a game-changer when it comes to long-term weight loss. But it will also help you avoid burnout and sustaining a sporting injury. Write down how you’re sleeping, how you feel before and after your training sessions, how your body feels when you train, any exercises you find difficult, what you ate before and after exercise, and how you recovered afterwards. If you have this type of information, you will know what does and doesn’t work for you in terms of exercise and recovery, and you’ll be able to manage your training a lot better. This will mean you’re less likely to burn out or injure yourself.

Invest in a good coach

Teaming up with a good coach is one of the best things you’ll do when it comes to your transformation journey. Not only will they provide accountability and structure to your program, which will lead to consistency, but they’ll provide the right guidance to ensure that you won’t sustain a sports injury, or end up burning out. First of all, they’ll be able to provide a personalised training program that will work for you and help you strengthen your weaknesses. They’ll be able to assess your form to ensure you don’t run the risk of injury. They’ll be able to interpret the data you record and look for early warning signs that may lead to burnout. And if you sustain any type of injury or niggle, they will have some idea on what is causing it and will know if and when you need to see a specialist health provider.

Things to avoid

Now you know all the things you need to do to reduce the risk of injury and burnout, here is a list of some of the things you should avoid.

  • Having a ‘big night’ the night before a training session, or training when you’re hungover — When you’re tired or hungover, you won’t be able to focus, thereby wasting your training time, and subjecting yourself to risk of injury.
  • Training on an empty stomach — If you don’t eat food to fuel your body before your session, you won’t get the most out of it. You may also end up feeling dizzy (which increases your risk of injury), and you won’t recover as effectively after your session.
  • Training when you’re dehydrated — Just as you need to eat, you also need to ensure you drink plenty of water. If the weather is warm, ensure you drink plenty before your session, rather than during it. Training when dehydrated will also impede your performance, recovery time and increase the risk of injury through feeling dizzy.
  • Jamming your schedule — If you already have a busy lifestyle, filling it with workouts will only cause you extra stress and lead to burnout. Have a look at what you can do. Ask yourself if there are any commitments that you can drop, in order to carve out more time for yourself.
  • Skimping on sleep and recovery time — As we said earlier, sleep and recovery is vital for a sustainable, exercise program that you can be consistent with.
  • One-size-fits-all workouts — One size never fits all! Workouts that can be downloaded off the internet don’t take into consideration your body shape goals, your mobility and flexibility, or your weak areas.
  • Comparing yourself with others — Focus on what you need to do to change your body, not on what others are doing to change theirs. When you compare yourself to other people, you won’t feel proud of your own achievements, and you’ll increase the chance of becoming disillusioned, unmotivated and burned out. You may also be tempted to lift weight that they are lifting, even if you’re not strong enough to, which will lead to injury.
  • Putting your ego first — Don’t focus on lifting the heaviest weight so you can brag about it on social media. Focus on the training that will get you results, while keeping you safe. Going too hard, is a sure way to injury and burnout.

Want a program that will get you results without the injuries and burnout?

At Imani Tribe, we focus on getting our clients results without the injuries and the burnout. We do this by developing structured, personalised and periodised training programs that factor in plenty of rest and recovery time. We also show our clients how to eat, to keep their body in prime condition, so they can train consistently.

We currently have a few spots available in our Transformation program, and we’re looking for people who want to change their life, and develop healthy habits they can sustain for life.

Please note the information contained in this blog is not intended as a substitute for your own independent health professional’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please speak to your own health professional for advice about your own personal situation.



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