Injuries - Part 1
Why, when, how of injuries - There are 2 main classifications of injuries; acute and chronic. Acute injuries occur when there is an overload on your body without any way of buffering it. For example, lifting too heavy of a weight and pulling a muscle, or falling off of your bike and breaking your arm. Acute injuries tend to be an immediate response to that given load.
Chronic injuries are injuries that build up over time. Such as not giving you muscles adequate rest in between workout days, or practicing bad form during resistance training. You may not "feel" injured right away, but over time, continual overuse of a body part will cause a chronic injury.
Warmup - Every single time you exercise, you should begin with a warmup. A correct warmup should start off slow, and increase in intensity gradually for about 5-10 mins. This allows your heart rate to come up a bit and start pumping blood through your arteries and veins, preparing your muscles for the workout ahead. After a warmup a fairly short, full-body stretch could occur to help elongate your muscles and increase their range of motion to prepare for the upcoming events. Note that long, more intense stretching should be completed after the workout has completed. This way your muscles are at their warmest and are much more pliable to gain the most benefits.
Cooldown - All workouts should also have a cooldown, post-workout. Once your workout has completed, you should keep moving, and gradually decrease your movement to ease your heart rate down. Then, and only when your heart rate is down, begin a lengthy stretch session. Stretching post-workout allows the muscle fibers to really open up and allow the blood to flow through and repair damaged tissue, reducing soreness and stiffness the next day.
Incorporate Synergists - Synergistic muscles are muscles that aid or help stabilize main muscle groups in their actions. For example, doing a bench press machine focuses mainly on your chest muscles whereas doing pushups requires more synergists (shoulder, serratus anterior) to stabilize the movement. Free-weights and free range of motion exercises are a great way to prepare yourself for real life activities and strengthen all of your muscles to prevent injury.
Yoga - Similar to the idea of synergistic muscles, yoga forces you to be calm and focused, even in tough isometric positions. It really creates a great sense of balance and coordination, not to mention providing a great stretch! Yoga even once a week can drastically improve all other areas of your fitness.