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Training Smart to Lower Your Risk of Injury

Visualization and Exercise
Visualization is an effective tool for creating the life you desire. It is also the key to making your workouts more beneficial.

Visualization enhances the natural connection between your body and your mind. When you picture your muscles working in your "mind's eye", the "wiring" between your nervous system and your muscles increases. More nerve-muscle connections are created and enhanced, resulting in stronger and smarter muscles. It is really quite remarkable.

And the nice part is that it doesn't take any extra effort, other than thinking about it!

Have you ever been out running when you suddenly experience pain in your shins?  Shin splints1 are common in runners, but there are things you can do to lower your risk.

One thing you can do to lower your risk of injury is to make sure you have a plan for exercise. Having a well thought out strategy can help you train smart and train safe. When you train smart and follow your plan, then you can also train hard while minimizing your risk of injury.

Training smart and safe means paying attention to what is happening in your body as you workout. "Paying attention" is a learned skill that depends upon repetition and mental focus. Visualization is an important aspect of mental focus, and if you're visualizing ideal form while you're exercising, then you are automatically paying attention!

If you are a runner, you can focus on:
•    Visualizing a strong, fluid and erect spine, and a strong abdominal core.
•    Keeping your head upright, looking forward and slightly down, while keeping your chest open and relaxed.
•    Keeping your arms and shoulders relaxed while you move.
•    Visualizing a long, fluid stride with your feet landing gently, and then pushing off powerfully, as your leg extends behind you.

Training smart also involves trusting your instincts, instead of following your ego. This can be challenging for many of us. In the middle of a workout, it can seem imperative to complete your set and do that last rep even if your form is suffering. But the truth is, form is the most important thing.  If you end up sacrificing proper form to complete those last few reps, you may get an unexpected and unwelcome result.

It is the same for runners. If you are running and your form begins to break down, take that as a signal to lessen your speed enough to reestablish your good form. If you train while focusing on proper, effective form, you will be more likely to run a good race at a good pace when the time comes.

As in much of life, there is a sweet spot where you are training hard enough to get the results you're seeking, but not overtraining and increasing your risk of injury.  Remember, to pace yourself so that you continue to receive the benefits of training over the long term, rather than being side-lined by an injury.

1Couture CJ, Karlson KA: Tibial Stress Injuries: Decisive Diagnosis and Treatment of "Shin Splints". Physician and Sportsmedicine 36(6):29-36, 2002

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