Committing to a new fitness routine and getting back in shape is indeed praiseworthy but that same sense of excitement that drives us to work out could also get us in trouble. Most of us have been there: you make some adjustments to your diet, you get a gym membership, you make time for your workouts and then you push yourself. What follows puts a big hole into your carefully crafted plan as you can’t really get back in shape when you’re suffering from an injury, as minor as that may be. It’s true that some workout injuries simply can’t be avoided or are just a stroke of bad luck but you can try to avoid them by sticking to the following tips:
- Warm up and take it easy
This is a very basic piece of advice but you’d be surprised how many people either skip it or rush through it. A proper unrushed warm up will absolutely minimize the risk of injuries. Warm-ups gradually increase your heart rate and better prepares your body for exercise. Your muscles will be better prepared for a challenge once they are loose and warm. Usually, they should last around 10 minutes. Also remember to gradually build the pace over time. Don’t push yourself too hard as you will use a bad technique and possible sprain a muscle or two in the process.
- Know thyself (and thy body)
Before you hit the gym or start a new running routine, you should consider the reasons behind it and find a few helping mantras. You should also bear in mind any previous injuries and how they might affect your workout. Remember to steer clear of activities that will put a lot of pressure on your weak areas. Don’t do any exercises that actually hurt but rather build strength by starting out lightly. For instance, if you know you have a bad knee, avoid leg presses and running but rather try an exercise band and protect your knees with knee wraps. Or if you have problems with arthritis or carpal tunnel, gym gloves with wrist support are a sensible choice.
- Work with a trainer
This one’s pretty self-evident but again, you’d be surprised how many people hit the gym for the first time in a long time with routines they found on Pinterest. Trust me, you can afford a few lessons with a certified trainer than waste all that money treating an injury which could have been prevented by using a better technique. Besides, a good trainer will keep you motivated and hold you accountable. They will add new elements to your workout and make sure you reach your fitness goals. And most importantly, they will make sure you are working our correctly, maximize your workout and minimize the risk of injuries.
- Use the right equipment
Using the right equipment and using it the right way is the key to preventing injuries. And I am not just talking about protective gear. I am talking about proper clothing and proper footwear. For instance, thick clothing can cause your body to overheat which will inevitably lead to performance loss. And I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sports-specific shoes. Runners need shock-absorbent shoes, basketball players need better ankle support, weightlifters need strong soles. You can protect your hands from calluses and blisters using workout gloves, and you can protect your knees by wearing knee compression wraps.
- Allow your body to rest and recover
After any workout session, give your body time to recover. Sleep and rest well, drink plenty of water and eat quality food. Sleep allows your body to repair itself, drinking water fights against muscle cramps, eating proteins helps repair muscle damage just as eating carbs gives you more endurance. Returning to soon to the gym or to another run might severely impair your performance as your body might not be ready for it and fatigue might set in. Muscles tear a lot easier when you suffer from fatigue. So give your body time to rest and recover.