The best way to make sure you stay protected, whether you’re playing a contact sport, testing the waters with the stock market, or in any type of physical combat, whatever it may be: attack before being attacked.

No one wants to try to score more points exclusively if their team is suddenly losing, it would be foolish to only try to get as far ahead as possible once you’re behind.  Have you ever watched a boxing match and seen a successful fighter get demolished before he throws some punches?

Yikes, I hope not! This same mentality should be taken when it comes to injury prevention and taking care of our bodies.

Let’s skip the obvious topic of nutrition since most of us seeking to obtain or maintain a healthy lifestyle know how important it is to fuel our bodies with proper nutrition, let’s jump right to hydration.

It’s nothing novel that water is good for you and crucial to proper nutrition absorption, but what about energy drinks and soda? Anything with caffeine is going to dehydrate your body; energy drinks are especially ones to watch out for as they are advertised to have excess amounts of caffeine.

Water makes up the majority of muscle and cartilage in the body and if you aren’t sufficiently hydrated, your body will pull water from other places to nourish itself as needed.  This could mean taking water away from muscles and cartilage, weakening them and making them more prone to injury.

An easy rule of thumb as to how much you should drink on an average day is to consume half of your body weight in ounces; however, if you are active or in the heat, more water is undoubtedly necessary.

Another way to start protecting your body from premature aches and pains is to keep off excess weight.  Each of our bodies is unique and designed to carry an approximate amount of weight, but when overtaxed, our joints may suffer and have extra pressure on them without the muscle to support it.  On the other hand, being underweight is not ideal either, as this could hinder muscle mass to support your joints to be strong, stable, and have longevity.  Some exercises that are easy on the joints include yoga, pilates, swimming, walking on a treadmill or in the pool, and biking.

In addition to staying properly hydrated and maintaining a healthy weight, adequate warm-ups and cool downs are also keys to preserving your muscle and joint health.  I know it’s not everyone’s favorite part of their workout routine, but it is so important that we take a few minutes before and after, to prepare and care for the muscle groups being worked.  Failure to warm up and stretch could put your joints and muscles in jeopardy.

Warming up doesn’t have to mean jogging on the treadmill every single time before you exercise, in fact, it’s most beneficial to be mindful of your warmups that they not only get your blood pumping and body loose, but focus on the movements you will be doing.  For example, before deadlifts, one may like to row 500 meters and then spend a few minutes stretching their lower body and hips followed by a warm-up set with lightweight to make sure the body is properly engaged and muscles are activated at the right time.  When finished with your workout, make sure to similarly stretch and alleviate your muscles.  I know that oftentimes we are in such a hurry to get to the next place, but when a few extra minutes of stretching takes place, I feel so much better mentally and physically.  Find two of your favorite relaxing songs and add them to the end of your playlist to fully enjoy your cooldown and stretching.

Lastly, listen to your body.  Learn to decipher the cues and differentiate between muscle soreness and actual pain that could require rest or medical attention.  Drink water before you’re thirsty, take an extra rest day if you’re feeling drained or overwhelmed, and most of all, be proactive about caring for your body.  After all, you are a powerful, capable being that should be celebrated and esteemed.

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