I know this article is long overdue, but if you've been keeping up with me, you know I've just finished up at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. I had a great time and added another gold medal to my collection for the Women's 4x400M Relay! (Shameless plug -- moving on.)
I wanted to come to you guys this time around and talk about training through pain, and about ways to prevent injury while training. Injury is something that we try to avoid, but unfortunately it happens to us sometimes. They most often occur due to overexertion. It is important that we listen to our bodies and understand that there are necessary precautions when we are on a training or exercise schedule.
The first thing that is most important for recovery is rest. We oftentimes overlook this because we spend so much time stressing just to get our regular day-to-day activities in, and we forget one of the most important things that our body needs is rest.
This means getting in about six to eight hours of sleep at night. The body needs that time to not only recover from normal activity, but also to repair itself from our physical activity and prepare for more. Sleep allows the body to relax, and gives the muscles a chance to recuperate. Rest also includes taking a day off from physical activity as well. It is important that we listen to our bodies. Some soreness is normal, but extreme soreness is a sign that the body needs rest. Pain in muscles or joints is also an indication of rest from the activity that is causing the pain or soreness.
We've talked about how important our diet is in previous articles, but our diet also plays a role in our body's ability to recover from physical activity. The body needs the proper vitamins and minerals to perform. If there is a deficiency anywhere, injury is quite possible. Hydration is also very important. The muscles in the body need lots of water to prevent muscle cramping and pulling. Remember, the best way to test your hydration level is by the color of your urine. You want it to be a very light yellow, or as close to clear as possible. Don't forget your electrolytes! These also help with exhaustion and cramping.
In the unfortunate event that you do experience some sort of injury, or even a little bit of soreness from exercise, there are things that we can do to alleviate some pain and help with recovery. Icing sore muscles or joints is a good way to slow swelling or inflammation. For an injury, icing the spot for about 15 minutes about four or five times per day will help keep the inflammation down. Be careful not to exceed 15 minutes as it is possible to hurt your skin with the ice.
For my extreme training, I take an ice bath from time to time. I usually take one after a very hard workout, and I know I need to recover in a day or two for another workout or competition. The ice bath is usually a tub of water up to my hips at about 55 degrees. Unless, you're training for a marathon, triathlon or some sort of extreme event, you probably don't need to take these measures. Instead, a warm bath should be good enough. When I do these, I like to use Epsom salts to help alleviate some of the soreness. The water should be as warm as you can stand.