Warm up well. Tight cold muscles are much more likely to become injured than warm loose ones.
Always start your exercise or sports session by playing and moving effortlessly; do not run fast or stretch for the ball until your muscles are warm. This will take at least 10 minutes. It is particularly important before competition or a match when you will be expected to make maximum effort as soon as play begins.
Develop a regular routine of stretching all the muscles you will be using for your sport, to carry out in the changing room before you go out, and also spend 20 minutes or more working carefully through the routine several times a week, preferably after training.
Wear plenty of clothes for warming up and change into warm dry clothes as soon as you have finished playing or training. On a cold day wear extra layers even for competing. Between contests, races etc, even on a warm day, or indoors, put a track suit on. Evaporating sweat quickly cools the body.
Whatever your exercise goals do not expect to run a marathon or play three hours badminton the first time you go out, or even the first practice of the season.
Build up slowly, and if you want to impress at the beginning of the season use a progressive general fitness programme in the 6-8 weeks before the season starts.
Rest days, when you do not train are as important a part of your training as the training itself! Muscles need to rest to assimilate the stress that you have placed on them, before you train or play again. You will also need more sleep (and good nutritious food) than your ‘lay-about’ friends and colleagues.
If you expect to get a lot out of your body you must give it respect in return. Regular massage and other therapies can help it be ready for action, by stretching and loosening muscles. Take action at the slightest sign of injury – few injuries will get better if you keep playing, do nothing for it, and hope it will go away. Most will get worse, but if you carry out the simple First Aid measures below, and have the injury seen to straight away it can be quickly remedied. If you leave it till it stops you playing it will almost certainly take far longer to heal, and you may loose weeks of training and competing.
Perhaps you already have an injury, whether from your sport or not, which niggles or causes pain while you are playing or running, or afterwards. The points made above are even more important, and you should concentrate your stretching on that area. Deep massage will almost certainly be able to help solve the problem, or other therapies can be recommended, depending on the nature of the problem.
For muscle pulls or tears and ligament sprains e.g. twisted ankles, remember R I C E
· Rest – stop playing or running and take your weight of the injured limb as soon, and as completely, as you can, if possible for up to 24 hrs
· Ice – as soon as possible put an ice pack – frozen peas are good, or fish some ice out of the orange squash from the bar – on the area to prevent swelling; put the ice on for 10 minutes every hour or so.
· Compression – Pressure with a compression bandage with added padding to localise the pressure to the injured area will help stop swelling, but make sure the pressure is not so tight that circulation to areas beyond the injury is not restricted.
· Elevation – Raise the injured limb by sitting or lying with your leg or arm raised as much as is comfortable.
If there is any chance that you may have broken bones it is important that you should go to Casualty for X-rays, but RICE first and while you are waiting will speed recovery.
After two or three days begin to move and stretch the area gently. Heat will be more beneficial than ice after about 48 hours and remedial massage will significantly speed up recovery time and prevent the formation of scar tissue which could lead to permanent restriction of movement.