3 Keys To Injury Prevention: For All Sports & Activities

All of us living or aspiring to live active lifestyles want to avoid the delays and setbacks that pain can play into our lives.

Runners, Hikers, CrossFitters, Team Sport players, etc. All of us want to be able to continue to do our activities, do them at the level that brings us joy, and do so without injury.

Injury reduction has gotten quite a bit of focus the past couple of years, mainly focusing on training a specific way, with specific movements, depending on your activity.

What if we told you there were 3 things you could manage, no matter your sport or activity, that could reduce your injury risk.

1 – Control The Biggest Contributor to Your Recovery: Sleeping More, and More Consistently

The biggest thing many people can do for their health is to get more sleep.

While we all “know” sleep is important, our actions don’t embrace its importance. The average American sleeps 7.18 hours a night, with more than ⅓ of the adult/teen population getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night.

Why is sleep important?

Consistent, high quality sleep aids in learning and memory facilitation, as well as the production of molecules, such as proteins and cholesterol, that our body relies on. Not to mention, sleep is the main time our body recovers from stressors placed on it throughout the day, both mentally and physically.

What does restricted sleep actually cost me?

Consistent sleep restriction of less than 7 hours a night is associated with:

  • Decreased immune system health
  • Decreased tissue healing (including muscle regrowth)
  • Decreased cardiovascular health
  • Increased obesity and type II diabetes
  • Increased depression/anxiety
  • Decreased attention span and memory (short and long term)

The kicker? Consistently getting less than 6 hours of sleep in a night is also associated with a 12% increase in early mortality from all causes.

How does this relate to my active lifestyle and relate to injury prevention?

Due to all the processes above, athletes who slept less than 8 hours a night were 60% more likely to get injured than those who did sleep. If training load was increased upon that sleep restriction, risk for injury doubled.

Further, when sleep was restricted to 5.5 hours for athletes, compared to a group with 8.5 hours of sleep while training, those who slept less had 60% less muscle mass compared to when they started. Yes they LOST muscle mass! Those who slept more had an increase in muscle mass of 40%.

So not only are you more likely to get injured if you don’t sleep, you are actually wasting your time in training if you don’t sleep.

How can I sleep better?

There are a lot of small details that can go into sleeping well, limiting blue light, timing of activity, when you eat food, etc.

At Gray Duck we like to focus on the two that have the biggest impact, and are based in consistency. Any parent could tell you these work for their kids over time.

1 – Have the same 10-15 minute bedtime routine

2 – Keep the bedtime consistent

The truth is we never outgrow these principles. Being consistent means our bodies are ready for sleep at the time we determined to sleep.

Now let’s move on to how you should train.

2 – Train By How You Feel Each Day: Understanding Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Far too often training is controlled by the wrong numbers. In gyms and programs across the country we see many operating off of previous results as benchmark.

In strength training this can be seen in working off a percent of your previous 1 rep max, or in endurance training to work at a specific pace for a specific time based on your previous time and performance.

Now in an ideal world, your body would be perfectly ready for exercises at all times…in an ideal world.

The flaw in training this way is it assumes two things:

  1. You were at your absolute best based on the day of testing
  2. At the moment of your training your preparation is exactly the same as the day of your testing, making those percentages accurate

The problem becomes that we are indeed not always optimally ready for movement and activity.

Let’s take a basic 5×5 rep scheme for example.

Scenario 1:

Say you did not sleep well that day, nutrition was a bit off, it was a more stressful day at work, and you ended up failing the last 3 sets at the prescribed weight to 3-4 reps instead of 5. Or maybe you had to decrease the weight from the percentage number. Plain and simple your body was not ready for the work.

Scenario 2:

Say that you were well rested and feeling quite good, you perform the 5 x 5 at the prescribed weight and actually realize you could have gone a little heavier today.

In Scenario 1 if you truly stick to the numbers based on the percentage you were prescribed, you are going to have a greater chance of injury. In Scenario 2 you didn’t stress your system to allow it maximal growth.

Most of the time we are going to fall into one of these two scenarios.

For this reason we recommend training in Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) or Reps-In-Reserve (RIR) where both correlate to one another, as seen above.

While this training does have a learning curve to it, it allows you to properly stress your body to it’s capacity to do work each and every day.

*Note that RPE and RIR will scale to whatever rep scheme or pace you are truly working on.

This gives us two main results once proficient within our training:

1 – Less injury risk in “overdoing it” in each training session

2 – Better training results

31 trained males trained squatting either on a fixed loading based on their 1 rep max or based on how many reps they had “in reserve” or thought they could complete after resting for 12 weeks.⠀

The results? An 11.7% increase in those working to “reps in reserve.” A 10.8% increases in the 1 rep max progression loading with overall volume equalized for front and back squats.⠀

We would argue that not only does this produce strength gains in trained individuals better, but it is also safer for those of us who fall into the non elite category.

More importantly once RPE and RIR are truly understood you can use them to track your training over long periods of time and appropriately increase/decrease that training to reduce injuries in what is called the Acute: Chronic Workload Ratio.

3 – Base Your Current Training On What You Have Already Done: The Acute:Chronic Workload Ratio

Often injury can happen by doing too much too soon, after doing too little for too long. The Acute: Chronic Workload Ratio can help us advance in a safe manner.

This ratio is found within comparing fitness and fatigue:

  • Fatigue: the workload you have performed over the past week
  • Fitness: The overall workload you have performed over the past 4 weeks

In a two year study it was found that working within the past week of 80-130% of what you had done the previous 4 weeks (averaged per week) resulted in the least chance of injury.

To this we need to be able to calculate your workloads.

Workload = RPE of Event x Reps or Time of Event

Examples of this:

Resistance Training: 5×5 back squat:

  • You perform your sets at what you gage is a level 6 RPE (remember from the table above: 5-6 means ‘I could perform 5+ more reps or go for 1-2 more minutes but this is challenging’)
  • RPE 6 out of 10
  • 25 Total Reps
  • Volume: 150 units
  • (6 x 25 = 150)

Cardiovascular Training: 5000m Run

  • RPE 4 out of 10
  • 25 min to complete
  • Volume: 100 units
  • (4 x 25 = 100)

Metcon: 15 KB Snatch and 400M run

  • 9 min to complete
  • RPE 8 out of 10
  • Volume: 72 units
  • (9 x 8 = 72)

By getting more consistent sleep we can increase our ability to do more work at appropriate RPE levels and manage the overall training, no matter the stimulus, to help us:

  • Obtain higher chronic training load – “Fitness”
  • Optimize our performances
  • And reduce our injury risk while doing so

Already Experiencing Pain Limiting Your Active Lifestyle?

The truth is the human body is very complicated, and much like everyone has a unique look and fingerprint on the outside, we are all very unique on the inside.

We believe each person’s pain experience is unique and should be treated as such!

Maybe you’ve had “physical therapy” before and it didn’t work.

Did they go beyond simple stretches or exercises and truly build new patterns of movement and strength with you?

Did they go beyond just pain relief and address the root cause?

Unfortunately, if you are seen in the mainstream healthcare system you may not have been given enough time with your doctor to get beyond the cookie cutter care.

We specialize in helping active individuals get back to the sports and activities they love without taking time off or undergoing invasive treatments.

Real People. Real Pain. Real Work. Real Results.

Click HERE to set up your Free 15 minute Phone Consultation to see how we can help!

🚫The content in this is NOT medical or health advice and is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. See a healthcare professional if you have any questions about your individual healthcare needs.🚫


Dattilo M et al. Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2011 Aug;77(2):220-2.

Graham, T., Cleather, DJ. Autoregulation by “repetitions in reserve” leads to greater improvements in strength over a 12-week training program than fixed load. J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Apr 17

von Rosen P, Frohm A, Kottorp A, Fridén C, Heijne A. Multiple factors explain injury risk in adolescent elite athletes: Applying a biopsychosocial perspective. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2017;27(12):2059-2069.

von Rosen P, Frohm A, Kottorp A, Fridén C, Heijne A. Too little sleep and an unhealthy diet could increase the risk of sustaining a new injury in adolescent elite athletes. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2017;27(11):1364-1371.