From the opening ceremonies until their conclusion the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will feature extraordinary displays of athletic prowess.
However, performance at the highest level carries the risk of injury, like the damage two-time gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn sustained in her right knee that kept her out of this year’s competition.
Only a handful will attain Olympic excellence, but their commitment to training and their ability to manage pain can inspire the rest of us—in sports and life as well.
After all, the father of the modern Olympic games, Pierre de Coubertin, said, “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.”
A major difference between most of us and Olympic athletes is that they’re constantly in training. That means “weekend warriors” may be inclined to overdue it when they exercise or take up a sport. Those who aren’t in shape may overuse muscles and joints leading to tendinitis or stress fractures.
“[Individuals] who are really interested in playing a sport need to think about training during the off-season. Think about doing routing flexibility and strengthening exercises and keeping your body balanced, because that reduces injury,” says Gloria Beim, MD, Team USA Medical Officer for the Winter Olympics.
Beim made her comments earlier this month in an interview with the online medical journal, Medscape. She says a top athlete would never try to go full steam without proper preparation.
Another suggestion: pay special attention to strengthening the hips and the rotator cuff, pressure points that people often ignore. That can enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury.
Bad technique, like a poor golf swing, can strain vulnerable muscles. Eight-time PGA winner Fred Funk says many golfers are so badly out of shape they’re unable to swing a club properly.
Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic that will help keep you in the game:
• If you’re starting a sport or re-engaging, get instruction about the proper technique and use gear that is appropriate for the activity.
• Pace yourself: don’t try and cram your efforts into two days a week. Instead 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise spread over seven days is safer.
• Increase your physical activity gradually, about 10 percent a week until you reach your new goal.
Of course, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before making a big change in your activity level. Likewise, it’s important to report any exercise related injury to see if treatment is necessary.
There are many pain relieving options including natural, non-addictive approaches that are safe and effective.
If you’re injured during a work out or playing a favorite sport, it’s by no means the end of your amateur career. Plan a return to action with your doctor. There is a lesson to be learned about dedication and perseverance from the Olympians.
The coach of the Canadian women’s Alpine team put it this way: “The champions, the real champions, come back stronger.”