Online fitness is still booming – and although it comes with major upsides (hello, no queue for the treadmill in the gym), it can also mean there's a bigger risk of doing yourself some damage. Without a hands-on yoga teacher to adjust that wonky warrior pose, or a running coach to correct your stride, injuries are bound to happen, says Melinda Cotton, Practice Principal at Fulham Osteopaths.
Add to this a further study from Bupa UK, which shows over 7.2 million of us have been injured while working out alone this year and it’s clear we all need to be paying a little more attention to how we go about it... “For many, the loss of the walk to the station, strolling to grab lunch initially led to a significant loss of fitness but the boredom saw us dive into an intense fitness regime,” says Cotton. “This, combined with less than satisfactory home-working setups, can lead to the shortening or tightening of some muscle groups.” It’s important to treat any aches or pains properly, otherwise you run the risk of re-injury, scar tissue or developing a chronic problem, she adds.
If you’re hurt, book in to see a professional ASAP and in the meantime, take note of the following:
Common running injuries
“Running is a great form of cardiovascular fitness but injuries can easily occur for a multitude of reasons,” says Tashi Skervin-Clarke, an expert from Eastnine fitness app. "Taking on a new terrain or running on harder surfaces, wearing incorrect footwear, having tight calf muscles or a lack of calf muscle strength, ramping up the mileage and doing too much too soon, are all risk factors."
Shin splints are the bane of every runner’s life, newbie or not. “They occur when the leg muscles have been overworked. You’ll feel the fronts of your legs, usually either side of your shins, are sore when you run and sometimes even walk.” There are also ankle sprains to watch out for, which can occur if you roll over your ankle whilst pounding the pavements. Oh, and plantar fasciitis – nope, not a Pokémon but when the sole of your foot hurts to walk, run and stand on. It can occur in both feet or one.
Shins getting you down? Skervin-Clarke has the answer. “Try to foam roll before and after each run. Start by spending 30 to 60 seconds rolling out each calf and slowly build up from there.” She adds that exercises, such as calf raises (simply stand straight, then push through the balls of your feet and raise your heel, until you’re on tiptoes, then lower back down), will also allow you to work on building up leg strength. “Aim for three sets of 12 to 15 reps a few times each week.” To keep your ankles is good nick and avoid plantar fasciitis, start with your shoes. “Get your running gait tested and analysed in a sports shop – you may need to go half a size up in trainers, to allow your feet the space they need to move.” Equally, stay aware of your surroundings while out and about (e.g. slow down if the path gets gravelly or uneven).
If it’s too late, all of the above injuries require rest: ankle sprains may need elevation, ice and a complete break from running, shin splints and plantar fasciitis on the other hand most likely only require a few days off exercise.
Common yoga injuries
The perfect remedy for any aforementioned ironing-board-cum-desks or tight muscles, yoga is the ideal way of giving your body some TLC, says Chatty Dobson, yoga teacher and owner of FLEX Chelsea. “It’s also a mindful practice, so you shouldn’t be pushing yourself beyond your physical limits.” That said, there are still some pitfalls to watch out for…
The most common yoga injury is sprained wrists, advises Dobson, explaining that the wrists carry a lot of weight but often lack strength. “Lower back pain can also crop up – in addition to the numerous back bends and twists in yoga, legs locked straight also cause a rounding of the spine.”
“Warm your wrists up properly: from a Table Top position (all fours; knees under hips, wrists under shoulders) gently rock backwards and forwards, making circles with the body around the wrists,” she recommends. Another super simple way to build wrist strength is by squeezing a stress ball when you’re watching TV or scrolling Insta – just make sure you alternate hands. As for that niggly lower back, listen to your body and how it’s feeling. “If it’s just a twinge, head straight to Child’s pose. The posture allows the lower back to release and the spine to elongate.”
If your back needs more attention; ice it for a couple of days, before applying a heat patch, rest and arrange a sports massage. “As for wrists, rest may also be required, or you can use a splint or compress for extra support too.”
Common barre injuries
A mix of Pilates, yoga and ballet-type movements, barre is low impact but high intensity (read: you will sweat but it’s all worthwhile). “A form of strength training, barre is actually designed prevent injury in daily life and other sports. So it’s often great for building yourself back up after injury,” says Maria Eleftheriou, Head of Barre at Psycle London, who offer online classes via YouTube or Instagram. However, there are still a few things to be mindful of.
“It's very rare to get injured in barre, however if you're an at-home first timer without the hands on corrections or undertaking indiviual coaching, the main injuries you could possibly build up over time are likely to involve the knees, lower back and shoulders,” says Eleftheriou.
Barre is all about precision. “Changing your posture by an inch can make all the difference to your performance, intensity and technical alignment, so listen to those verbal cues from your instructor.” A neutral spine is key in a barre class, she adds. “Keep shoulders over hips, hips over heels and heels in line with toes, with a tilt of the tailbone. Increased stress in the lumbar spine can occur if we don't pay attention to spinal alignment when lifting or working on abs.”
Feeling sore? If it’s a new injury, Eleftheriou advises taking out some of the advanced or full-range movements until any niggles have eased. “Take on board any modifications your instructor gives and keep movements small; this will allow you to stay in the muscles and not push into your joints.” She adds that if it’s an old injury playing up, check in with a physio first and if allowed, use modifications in class. “If it doesn't feel good, don't push into it. Stop or reset the movement.”
Common tennis injuries
Tennis courts were one of the first exercise spots to reopen, encouraging many to try the sport for the first time (especially as there's an added social aspect to it), but going in head-first, without proper preperation, leaves your body open to injury. "You wouldn’t run a marathon without adequate training!” says the Lawn Tennis Association’s physiotherapist Anna Poyser (who’s cared for all the sports’ big names).
No prizes for guessing the most common injury here: tennis elbow. “This specifically involves the area where the muscles and tendons of the forearm attach to the outside bony area (lateral epicondyle) of the elbow,” says Poyser. “It’s usually associated with weakness around the shoulder and arm, poor technique, or because the player is not using their full kinetic chain (e.g. not putting your full body into the serve, legs included).”
To prep the body, a thorough warm-up is essential. “Try some simple mobility exercises of the upper and lower body, use tennis-focused resistance bands to activate the muscles around the shoulders.” A mini pre-match session of hitting the ball back and forth between players can help too – and, crucially, don’t forget a warm down.
“Rest up, ice the affected area and take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen,” recommends Poyser. “If symptoms persist after 7 to 10 days, seek advice from a physio or doctor.” Equally, if symptoms return when you resume playing, it could be worth re-assessing your playing technique or finding a coach.
Common HIIT injuries
It's the best way to build up a sweat from home, but like the name itself suggests, this workout is high impact. “The most common injuries people get through HIIT training are strained muscles, repetitive strain injury to the tendons in the knees, and shoulder cuff injuries,” says Cassie Georgouras, Co-Owner of F45 Shepherd's Bush.
Been HIIT-ing it a tad too hard? "All of the aforementioned injuries generally occur when flexibility, mobility and core strength is neglected, and when correct form isn’t observed properly.” So if you're feeling a bad kind of burn, pay attention to the following.
Worried about shoulder cuffs not feeling too snazzy? This is generally caused by tears in the rotator cuff muscles and can cause a sharp pain when you lift an arm. “Running through a shoulder sequence pre-workout will strengthen and warm up your rotator cuff muscles, preventing tears or strains,” Georgouras recommends, advising 20 arm circles in each direction, 20 shoulder shrugs, 60 seconds of mountain climbers and 60 seconds of squat punches. Make sure your form is on point too. Keep your spine neutral, back engaged and the core activated. Aim to do no more than three HIIT classes a week and if you're using weights, don’t progress onto heavier ones until you’ve truly mastered the move. Got it?
Repetitive-use knee strain tends to cause a pain in the knee that worsens with exercise. “Treatment can include dialling back plyometric exercises (think hops, skips and jumps) and avoiding moves that load the knees, such as squats,” notes Georgouras, who adds that this type of strain on the tendons can also be caused by tight hamstrings – so regular stretching is a great way to both treat and prevent this injury.
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