Dr Daniel Phang
5 Key Tips For Any Sportsperson To Keep Their Muscles In Top Shape
Whether you are a seasoned athlete or someone embarking on a fitness resolution, sports and exercise injuries are threats to your active lifestyle. Thus, it’s crucial for you to know how to care for the primary engines of their activity- the muscles.
Protecting your ‘muscle’ engine can go a long way in preventing injuries as well as enhancing personal performance. Over-exertion of particular muscle groups could lead to muscle strain and musculoskeletal pain (discomfort in the muscles, bones, ligaments, joints or tendons).
Hence we at The Anaesthesia and Pain Practice want to equip you with some leverage to better care for your muscles, keep them in top form and prevent potential muscle injury.
The impending big competition places not only mental stress but also physical stress on your body. It can be easy getting caught up pushing your body to perform its best. However, your body needs time to recover. Each training session trains your muscles and micro-tears form in your muscle fibres. While that may be good for muscle growth, not allowing your body to do so may only earn you injuries later on.
Training alternating muscle groups is one way you could incorporate some recovery into your workout routine. If you trained your legs vigorously today, perhaps aim to focus on another muscle group the next day. More seasoned athletes may train antagonistic muscle groups on alternate days. This way, you allow one muscle group to recover while not falling behind on your training Sleep is also vital for muscle recovery.
Sleeping gives your body time to heal the tears and strains that your muscles experienced in the day. Fatigue also slows our response time. This increases risk of injury during training. As such, allow yourself at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day.
2. Always remember to warm up and cool down
Before and after any exercise, it is crucial to allocate 10 to 20 minutes each for warming up and cooling down. Most athletes would use this time to focus on the main muscle groups they see themselves tapping on during the training session. Stretching can improve circulation throughout the intended muscle group (bringing more nutrients and oxygen) and improve your sense of awareness (proprioception) before the actual exercise regimen.
Dynamic stretching is actively moving into each pose for only a short time. It engages muscle groups surrounding the joint hence increasing muscle length against tension. Static stretching involves holding each pose for a longer period of time. Sometimes, you may see people partnering up to help ‘hold’ each other in certain stretching positions. Static stretching may increase your injury risk if done excessively as this may strain your ligaments instead of stretching muscle.
If you are also looking to improve your flexibility and agility, stretching may be an excellent way to do so. While you stretch, your muscle fibres lengthen, enhancing your range of motion and, in turn, lead to better performance.
3. Follow a healthy diet
Besides warmup/ cooldown routines and sufficient rest, stick to a wholesome diet while you train. A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meat provides your body with the nutrients needed to support the physical activity that comes with the sport you play. There are many diets advocating their health benefits. Do bear in mind that weight loss diets may not provide enough energy for your training sessions, leaving you more exhausted and discouraged even.
Energy sources come from carbohydrates and fats. Carbohydrates, or ‘carbs’, are the first line energy source in your body. Longer duration of exercise will tap on fat reserves. Getting enough protein is particularly important for muscle health as this help to heal the tears in your muscle fibres and promote muscle hypertrophy.
Supplementation, such as vitamins and minerals, may also be vital. It is vital to note that while we obtain adequate supplements via a regular healthy diet, taking too many vitamin pills may make us more ill.
4. Stay well hydrated
Ensuring your body is sufficiently hydrated is especially important while training. During exercise and vigorous activity, your body sweats to regulate heat built up during muscle contraction. However, this also means your body goes into water deficit. If you do not drink to replenish your bodily fluids, you may start feeling dizzy and less able to perform up to par. In our tropical climate, we sweat more than our temperate climate friends, hence that puts us more at risk for dehydration and heat injuries during exercise.
Aim to drink as much water as at least half your body weight in a day. Sports drinks containing ions such as potassium, salt and sugar may also be helpful after a workout. However, do note that some of them may have more sugar than you need.
5. Active recovery
Active recovery include foam rolling or sports massages. Massages improve overall circulation and speed up muscle repair. Getting those knots loose can also prevent sprains and strains from doing severe damage.
Many athletes will invest in a good foam roller to roll out sore muscles after a workout. Using a foam roller as a massage tool provides a targeted form of massage known as myofascial release. Doing so can reduce soreness and muscle inflammation, especially when done regularly.
What to do in the case of a sport injury
If you sustain an acute injury, utilise ‘RICE’ (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) therapy to aid the healing process upon sustaining the injury.
Rest: put a halt to physical activity and rest the injured area for at least 2 days
Ice: reduce swelling by applying an ice pack over the injured area (for intervals of 15 minutes, on an average of once in 2-3 hours, over the next two days)
Compression: wrap the area to prevent any swelling (tight enough for compression but does not restrict blood flow)
Elevation: reduce the pain by elevating the injured part above the level of your heart
When to see a specialist
However, if the discomfort persists beyond an average of 2 weeks, without any reduction in pain or swelling, consult a specialist for an accurate diagnosis. Imaging tests such as X-rays and MRI may be used to help with the diagnosis. Your pain specialist would then offer the appropriate treatment option for a safe and expeditious recovery.
Muscle health is vital to all of us, especially those who regularly subject their muscles to intense physical activity. Keeping the above habits in mind and incorporating them into your regime can help you reach your training goals more effectively in the long run. If you find yourself in need of treatment for muscle tears in Singapore, check out our highly advanced pain management and treatment options here at The Anaesthesia And Pain Practice. We constantly strive to offer care that is supportive and affordable for all our patients.