Avoiding exercise-induced injuries | ‘Pre’-hab is better than re-hab

Recently, I started asking new newsletter subscribers to share their biggest fitness and nutrition challenges.

exercise-induced injuries

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(Thanks to all of you who’ve responded; it’s been wonderful to get your emails and to have actual conversations with so many like-minded women; the life of a blogger can sometimes be a bit isolating. Not a new newsletter subscriber? Feel free to share your ‘pain points’ in the comments section at the bottom of the page. And you can always, you know, subscribe 😉 ).

One of the most common responses I’ve had to date has been about injury prevention. For example,

I’m 47 and just started taking jui jitsu classes. What can I do to minimize my risk of injury?


At 54, my days of doing air squats and burpees and jumping onto benches are over. My knees just can’t handle the impact and the last thing I want to do is get hurt. Any tips for exercising without getting injured?

As a (newly) 48-year-old woman, thoughts about injury prevention are never far from my mind. Especially when trying a new activity for the very first time.

I’ve had enough of my own exercise-induced injuries (knees and achilles tendon and intercostal muscles, oh my!) to know that ‘pre-hab’ is highly preferable to ‘rehab’.

In general, injuries tend to occur when we do ‘too much, too soon’. Joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments need to be eased into new activities, giving them time to strengthen, learn new motor patterns and increase their range of motion.

Strategies for avoiding exercise-induced injuries

  • Start slow; Even if you exercise regularly, when the activity is brand new to you, pretend you’re a beginner. Follow the FIT (Frequency-Intensity-Time) guidelines of 2-3 times per week, at low to moderate intensity (on a scale of 1-10, 1 being easy, 10 being full-out exhausting, aim for somewhere between 3 and 5), and for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Leave yourself wanting more (or as my hubby used to say when our kids were little, “quit while you’re still having fun”).
  • Linger with your warmup; A proper warmup goes a long way when it comes to avoiding exercise-induced injuries. Plan on spending a good 10 minutes on whole body movements, paying particular attention to the muscles and body parts you’ll be using during the workout proper. Use your warmup to mimic the activity you’re about to partake in. For example, a tennis warmup might include arm circles, side shuffles and forward and back hops. A warmup for kayaking might include torso twists, ‘air’ paddling and calf raises (if your kayak has a foot-controlled rudder). Warming up for ju jitsu or another of the martial arts? Arm and leg swings and circles, slow controlled punches and kicks and whole-body walk out to planks would be great additions to your warmup. Gradually increase the range of motion that you’re moving through as muscles, joints and ligaments become more fluid. Here are some warmup moves that I like to practice before I hit the weights >>  Pre-strength training warmup ideas
  • Safety first; All exercises and activities have risks associated with them. Building up a solid foundation before you attempt the riskiest version of a new activity is the best way to ensure that you’ll continue to enjoy the activity for a long time to come. That might mean choosing lighter weights, performing the activity on a stable surface, using a limited range of motion until you’re familiar with the movements or making use of supports and props, when appropriate. As you get stronger and your balance and confidence improve, you can relinquish the ‘training wheels’ and take your activity out ‘on the road’.

avoiding exercise-induced injuries

  • Savour stretching; Post-activity stretching can aid flexibility (one of the most rapidly lost components of fitness for us 40- and 50-somethings…), which in turn can help you perform your favourite activities better and with less pain. Focus on the stretching the muscle groups you used most during the activity. Aim to hold each stretch for 15 to 30 s, taking deeper and deeper breaths as you lengthen the muscle and increase the intensity of the pose. Not only can stretching help prevent exercise-induced injuries, it’s a great time to turn your thoughts inward, calm your mind and enjoy a few moments of quiet in your otherwise busy day. Not sure which stretches you should be doing? Check out these two posts for ideas and tips on form >> Essential Stretches for Mid-Life Exercisers and Reasons to Stretch more Frequently (with a Video Guided Stretch)
  • Do different things; Exercise-induced injuries are often caused by doing too much of the same thing. I know that in our excitement and enthusiasm for a new activity, there’s a tendency to want to repeat the activity day after day after day. While repetition helps us get better at things, it can also lead to over-use injuries. Try interspersing your new favourite activity with other sports and types of exercise. You may be surprised to find that gains and improvements in one activity translate into gains and improvements in another. Ideally, your alternate activity will target different muscles groups (for example, running and cycling are both quad-dominant activities; a better alternative for the cyclist would be to hit the pool or the boxing gym). Oh and strength training complements pretty much any activity you can think of. Just saying 😉 .

Of course, getting proper instruction when starting a new activity will ensure that you’re performing the movements properly and with efficiency, both necessary if you want to avoid injury. Sign up for a lesson or two or book a session with a personal trainer to identify your strengths and weaknesses and get a program designed to support you in your new ‘favourite thing’!

Found this post helpful? Learned a thing or two that a fellow newbie to exercise might benefit from?
Why not share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter? (Just click on the social sharing links below). Who knows, one of them might be tempted to join you in your latest recreational pursuit!


What new fitness activity are you currently excited about?

Do you worry about exercise-induced injuries?



  1. I am the type that if I feel pain… I push through it! BAD I know – UGH! However, I don’t feel pain all that often… KNOCK ON WOOD!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…Letting the Inside, Out: Fun Facts About The Movie, Inside Out My Profile

    • Ha! I used to do that. Now that I’m 48 and know that my body doesn’t recover nearly as quickly, I avoid pain like the PLAGUE! LOL!

  2. I am with you on all & do them BUT I had to learn from experience on some of them.. important to get the younger crowd on board as they think they are invincible & I did too back then! 🙂

    I read so much on IG about people pushing thru injuries & then end up months off cause they did not pull back & address it….
    Jody – Fit at 57 recently posted…Emotional EatingMy Profile

  3. Hi Tamara, I am so glad that I found you. I am a 46 year old mother of three. I have been working out for over 20 years. I was active in sports in high school, owned a gym before having kids, competed in fitness competitions and have maintained a healthy lifestyle forever. I even began a blog on crazy workouts that I do on a regular basis. I am experiencing the spread that everyone talks about when they hit their 40’s. It is devastating to me that I work hard every day and am not seeing changes. I am going to give your mantra a try. Several years ago I found out I have a dairy and peanut allergy. Talk about a blow to my fitness food needs. No Whey protein, no peanut butter, no milk products. If you have any recommendations on protein powder supplements that are non-dairy, I am listening. I would love to see a blog on eating healthy with serious limitations due to severe allergies.

    • Hi Michele,

      Thanks so much for your email. The mid-40’s are a challenge to be sure! What types of workouts are you doing these days? Are you giving yourself enough time to rest and recover in-between? Over-exercising is one way to ensure that your cortisol levels stay elevated; and cortisol can contribute to menopot 🙁

      Not sure about many non-dairy protein powder supplements other than Vega. I’ve used their chocolate and vanilla formulas before and quite enjoyed them. I do know that they’re more expensive than whey-based brands, though. I’ll throw the question out on Facebook and see if anybody has any other suggestions!

      • Thanks for getting back to me so quickly Tamara. I do H.I.I.T or run on the treadmill with a 12lb weight vest, I lift about 4 – 5 days a week, I do Yoga about 3 of those days and also on Sunday for my active rest day. If the weather is nice, I will opt to run outside about 4 -5 miles, or I will swim 2 1/2 miles. My legs and arms are fit and trim, just a little softness. It is my midsection that I can’t seem to shed. If I don’t work out, I feel tired and miserable. My body and mind seem to feed off my workouts. My husband says the exact same thing you say. You can’t look at your body from your twenties and think you are going to have that in your 40’s. It is very tough when I have been very athletic and fit all my life. And I think I work harder now than I did back then.
        I have a gyno visit in September. I will see if she can check on all my levels, or if I need to schedule a well visit with my regular doctor.
        I will look into the vega protein. Some of them that I have tried seem to have a lot of sugar and carbs in them. I would like more protein and less carbs, but I know that is tough to do when you have to go with plant based protein.
        Thanks I am on your Facebook page as well so I will check in there.
        Thanks Again,


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