Whether you are an advanced athlete who has worked out for years or a novice just getting off the couch to start, no matter how careful or healthy we are most of us at some point have had (or will have) some kind of injury from working out. The most common types of injuries are
- muscle pull and strain
- sprained ankle
- shoulder injury
- knee injuries
- shin splint
- wrist sprain or dislocation
While there is no 100% way of staying injury free, you can greatly reduce your chances of a workout injury by just taking a few simple precautions.
MEET WITH A TRAINER: Before starting a weightlifting or exercise routine, meet with a trainer. Make sure you know how to use the equipment and have a plan. Don’t be a hero and try to figure it out on your own…that is an injury waiting to happen. A trainer will help you create a safe and realistic exercise program.
WARM UP: Every workout should begin with a warm-up it helps your body get ready for exercise by gradually increasing your heart rate and loosening your muscles and joints. Just a 5 – 10 minute walk/jog, bike, elliptical or jump rope is enough.
EASE IN TO IT: When you begin an exercise routine or start a new workout program, start slowly. Then gradually build up the intensity, duration, weight and frequency. As your fitness abilities increase, you will be able to challenge yourself more.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY: The old saying “no pain, no gain” can set you up for an injury. You want to push yourself, work hard and feel resistance but don’t push yourself to the point of true pain. Also, tailor your workout for problem areas…for example, if you have arthritis in your knees, you’ll want to build up strength but don’t do exercises that hurt. Be sure to start out lightly.
CROSS TRAIN: Vary what type of workout you do. Your muscles need time to heal and repair after a hard workout. Repeating the same muscle movements frequently can lead to overuse and repetitive-use injuries such as tendinitis and shin splints. If you run on day 1, plan on lifting weights on day 2 and maybe swimming or elliptical on day 3. Also, when doing weights, you don’t need to work the same muscles every day…try doing upper body one day and lower body the next or a cardio/weight interval workout. It really doesn’t matter what order you do each day as long as your are mixing it up.
HYDRATE: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you work out. A good general rule is to drink 8 oz about 30 minutes before; 8 oz every 20-30 minutes during; Finally 8 oz when your workout is done. Staying hydrated helps keep your muscle cells pumped, pliable and able to heal faster.
COOL DOWN & STRETCH: A cool-down after you work out is important to slowly bring your heart rate back to normal. Walk for a few minutes after you work out then give yourself a few minutes to stretch and lengthen those muscles/ligaments. This will not only help you prevent injuries but also will help prevent some of the soreness the days following.
REST: This is a tough one I know. Your body needs rest to give it a chance to recover between workouts, ignoring this is one of the leading causes of injuries. You are better off to take 1 to 2 days a week to rest then being forced to take off 4 – 6 weeks with an injury. Don’t be afraid to take some time off, you are not going to lose fitness ability in this time and you may find that you gain strength by being rested and fully healed.