Momentum can be a valuable asset as people pursue their fitness goals. Once a fitness routine picks up steam and begins to produce results, the resulting momentum can make it easier for individuals to fully commit to exercise and ultimately achieve, if not exceed, their initial goals.

A successful fitness regimen includes various components, not the least of which is sufficient rest. As individuals gain momentum and inch closer to their fitness goals, it can be tempting to skip off days. But rest is vital, allowing the body to recover and thus reducing athletes’ risk for various injuries, including overuse injuries.

What is an overuse injury?

All physical activities carry a certain measure of risk. Unfortunately, athletes and fitness enthusiasts suffer injuries each day that have nothing to do with overuse. Such injuries often aren’t preventable, but overuse injuries are. Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive trauma. These injuries affect muscles or joints and may be caused by training errors or mistakes with technique. Training errors include exercising for too long or doing too much of a particular activity. The resulting strain caused by overuse leads to injury. One typical example of a technique error that can cause an overuse injury is improper form when performing strength training exercises. That’s one reason why it’s vital for anyone beginning a new fitness regimen to consult with a coach or personal trainer before starting. Coaches and personal trainers can illustrate proper techniques when using strength training equipment or lifting free weights. Such instruction can significantly reduce athletes’ risk for overuse injuries.

Can other factors contribute to overuse injuries?

Athletes should know those overuse injuries are not always a result of errors with their training or technique. Instead, certain intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors can increase athletes’ risk for overuse injuries. Intrinsic risk factors for overuse injury include misalignment issues, leg length discrepancy, muscle imbalance, muscle weakness, and body composition. Therefore, adults and parents of young athletes should discuss fitness regimens with their physicians or children’s pediatricians before beginning a routine. Such a discussion may uncover intrinsic risk factors athletes are unaware they have.

Extrinsic risk factors for overuse injuries include surfaces, equipment, shoes, environmental conditions and nutrition. Athletes can act as their own watchdogs to prevent overuse injuries caused by extrinsic factors, examining equipment and playing surfaces to ensure they’re functional and safe, and eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet.

Overuse injuries are almost always preventable. Though it can be hard to take a break from an exercise routine that’s producing results, rest is integral to a successful fitness regimen.