Have you had an injury from exercising? I’d put money on the answer being yes.

You’d not be alone as the vast majority of us have.

Take a read below of the 6 common causes of injury I see women experience and yes, I’ve fallen foul to them myself over the years too.

1. Doing too much too quickly

An exercise challenge appeals to many women. It provides a goal, structure and motivation to get moving more. Yet, challenges like x squats in x days or run x miles in a month are often a road to injury.

When it comes increasing the amount of exercise we’re doing; slow and steady really does win the race.

Take running for example where increasing the amount you run by a max of 10% per week is advised to avoid injury. Let’s say you currently run around 10km a week and you sign up for a monthly challenge of 100km – something I’ve seen done many times!

By the end of it, you’ve had around 150% increase in your running volume. Little wonder injuries become really common. As I’ve seen first-hand in runners who’ve narrowly escaped stress fractures from undertaking such challenges!

The safer slow and steady approach is why my beginners run programme starts with 30 second run intervals and builds over a 10-week period. I want you to learn to run and love it – injury free.

2. An old injury that’s flared up again

You know that pain you had but have kind of forgotten as it’s not bothered you for ages? Sorry, but it’s likely to come back if you’ve not done some rehab on it!

Some of the most common pains and niggles I hear from women are those from pregnancy and childbirth. The back, pelvis and core are areas where issues then flare up when we’re postnatal. Others are from old accidents. Ankle injuries from going flying in a pair of heels on a night out are high on the list!

Old untreated injuries leave us weaker in that area and the body responds by compensating in how it moves. For example, an ankle weakness will likely lead to it rolling in or out, which then affects your leg alignment including your knees and up into your hips.

I’m a massive advocate of physio and credit it for keeping me active as I nudge into my fifties. If you’re local to Salford, then my go to one is Worsley Physio 

3. A muscle weakness

One of the things that most surprises women when they start to lift weights in my programmes is that both sides of our bodies don’t have equal strength. Did you know that?

Usually it’s our dominant side that’s stronger – so the right if you’re right handed – as we unconsciously go to push, pull or lead with this side. Yet beyond that, each of us is likely to have other weaknesses in our bodies too.

Our work-life has an impact. For example, women who sit down a lot in their jobs can experience glute atrophy – where your muscles decrease in size and strength.  Our choice of exercise plays a role too. If you become a runner, your calves which were fine to support your walking are likely not strong enough to support those new runs unless you work to strengthen them.

Let’s add that as women we experience a decline in our muscle mass from the age of 30 by around 3-5% each decade.

But hold on – I promise all is not lost!

Yes muscle weaknesses can lead to injuries but can be easily avoided by doing strength training – that won’t make you look bulky!

4. Not doing the right exercises

If you were to walk past my small group PT sessions in Worsley Woods you’d notice something, aside from the chat and laughter that echoes from them!

All the women aren’t doing the same exercises; despite all being on the same personal training programme.

It’s because we each move differently and whereas a lunge may be comfortable for one woman; to another it could cause aggravation in her knees. The same goes for higher impact exercises. Some women may be comfortable running but if a woman is experiencing pelvic floor weakness then it may cause urinary incontinence or a worsening of her symptoms.

I’ve had countless discussions with women about why avoiding or modifying an exercise isn’t about us failing. It’s about us respecting our bodies and avoiding putting ourselves into the path of an injury.

5. Wearing the wrong trainers

One of the most common questions I get asked by women when they join my programmes is which trainers I’d recommend for them to get. The answer is always the same.

Having the best trainers for you isn’t about the latest or most expensive ones; nor the ones I really love. It’s about which support you the best and the way we find that out is through getting your gait analysed.

Whilst it might sound abit techy, gait it basically the way we each walk and how our foot ‘pronates’ as it strikes the floor. Through a simple check, which can even be done online, it’s possible to identify if you:

  • Overpronate – where your foot rolls inward. Around 70% of people do this
  • Supinate – where the outer side of the foot strikes the floor at a steep angle
  • Neutral – where your weight is distributed evenly

Through this, it can be determined if you need a neutral (for underpronation and neutral) or stability trainer (for overpronation).

If there’s one piece of exercise kit to get right, it’s your trainers. Yes I’d even prioritise them over a pair of beautiful Sweaty Betty leggings!

Both Runners Need and Running Bear are much loved in the MTW community for their gait analysis and trainer know-how.

6. Not stretching before and after exercise

I know most of us find it dull to do, but not stretching before and after we exercise is going to take you on the road to an injury.  

Our bodies need to get warmed up before we exercise which is where dynamic (moving) stretches come in. They’re also a great way to improve your flexibility and range of motion.  After exercise, static (still) stretches lengthen our muscles back out, relieve tension that’s built up in them and improve the blood flow going to them.

Skipping either or both leaves you vulnerable to an injury as as our muscles shorten and become tight; eventually pulling on our joints and taking them out of alignment.  Plus it helps alleviate that post workout ache or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) as it’s technically called.

Have I sold you on stretching yet?!

Prevention not cure

I have a philosophy when it comes to exercise and injuries. Aim for prevention, not cure!

From increasing your volume of exercise safely, rehabbing an old injury, doing strength training, choosing the right exercises, getting supportive trainers and of course getting those stretches in.

There’s lots we can be doing to help ourselves injury-free and active.

If you need help in doing this, there’s not a day that goes by where I’m not advising and supporting women in the MTW Community to do just that.

Reach out if you’d like to chat or head here to check out my programmes and how I could become your coach.

Emma x

Find this blog helpful? Imagine getting relatable fitness tips and motivation directly into your inbox every Sunday evening. Pop your email in the box here and prepare to enjoy free advice and behind the scenes insights into my daily life.