You’ve surely heard the old adage “no pain, no gain”, but in the interest of injury prevention, I have to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Pushing yourself too hard at the gym can cause serious setbacks in your training schedule, resulting in lost gains, missed workouts and lengthy stints in rehab.
Common sense is your best weapon against exercise-related injuries, but even the most cautious gym-goer slips up once in a while and ends up with a sprain or strain. If this happens to you, give your body the time it needs to rest and heal so you can return to your routine in full force, and keep the following preventative tips in mind when you head back to the health club:
Warm it up
Warming up before working out is essential in preventing injury and improving athletic performance-it makes joints and muscles more supple and flexible and less likely to tear or strain. Nerve messages also travel faster at high temperatures. Since your reflexes and muscular reactions will be faster, you will reduce the risk of injury.
Warm up at a moderate pace for five to 15 minutes prior to your workout or exercise session-longer when the temperature is cold or if you’re sore from a previous workout. Be sure to continue until you’ve broken a sweat, as the whole purpose of a warm-up is to increase your body temperature by one or two degrees, and don’t allow too much time to pass between the end of your warm-up and the start of your workout.
Respect your limits
If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you? Didn’t think so. So just because your workout buddy is benching 250 lbs, it doesn’t mean you should kill yourself trying to keep up. Know your limits and increase your intensity gradually, no matter what the activity. Beginners should aim for 20 to 30 minutes of activity three times a week for a few months before adding to their regimen.
Sharp, dull or otherwise, never ignore pain. Listen to your body and stop if you’re hurting. Period.
Mix it up
Variety is the spice of life! Changing up your routine is key if you hope to avoid overuse injuries. Try new exercises, change your weight increments, switch cardio machines or sign up for a new class. Cross-training is a great technique: It helps you avoid injury and overtraining because you’re not overloading the same muscles day in and day out, and it keeps your workouts challenging so you avoid fitness plateaus.
The gym is chock full of distractions-toned bodies clad in minimal clothing are enough to make anyone lose their train of thought. Be sure not to tune out too often though, or it could result in a serious injury. Form is essential when lifting weights and without the proper focus, you’re bound to get hurt.
F%*@ fashionable footwear
I can’t stress this enough: The gym is not a fashion show! Pumas might be trendy, but they are NOT running shoes. A ton of conditions, from knee soreness to hip stiffness to lower back pain, are the result of improper footwear. Always sport shoes appropriate to your activity and buy new kicks every three months or 500 miles, whichever comes first. If you’re prone to plantar fasciitis (heel soreness) or turning your ankles, consider wearing athletic shoes outside of the gym as well. They offer far better cushioning and support than other types of footwear.
Next time you’re hitting the gym, use your head if you hope to avoid getting hurt. Warm up, watch out and seriously, take ‘er easy. As far as I’m concerned it’s as simple as this: No pain=no pain!