Stay injury-free during exercise with these expert tips.
All it takes is a sprained ankle, a pulled muscle, or a bit of knee pain to put you back where you started. The weight piles back on and your fitness gains are lost. While not all sports injuries can be avoided, there are ways to lessen your chances of getting hurt, and both beginners and seasoned athletes can benefit from taking proper precautions before, during, and after exercise.
Reach your fitness goals injury-free with these helpful expert guidelines.
Listen to Your Trainer
Years of experience have gotten your trainer to this point. Don’t let his or her expert advice fall on deaf ears. Instead, work with your trainer to develop a program and then stick to it. Follow the safety tips, practice proper form for each exercise, and progress according to the plan. You may want to jump ahead or do things your own way, but trust your trainer’s expertise and you’ll be less likely to get injured.
Don’t Skip the Warm-Up
Many days you’ll be tempted to skip a warm-up and go right into your workout. Doing so, however, increases your risk of injury. A five-minute warm-up at the beginning of your workout is all it takes to prep your muscles for exercise, so take your time and protect against injury. As blood flow is increased to muscles, oxygen and nutrients are delivered to get them warmed up and ready for what’s ahead.
The athletic shoes you’ve had in your closet since the beginning of time should be fine for hitting the gym, right? Wrong. They may look brand new, but aged shoes likely lack the support your feet, legs, and back need. Before beginning a new workout, invest in a good pair of athletic shoes designed specifically for your type of activity and foot shape.
Doing the same exercises day in and day out works the same muscles in the same way. This can lead to muscle fatigue or muscle imbalance, both which put you at risk for injury. Diversify your workouts by doing three different types of exercise each week. Be sure to include both cardio and weight training exercises in your routine.
Slow and Steady
Many beginners make the mistake of doing too much too soon. They feel strong so they run two miles the first day they get back into exercise. While it may seem noble, it’s not a good idea. Overdoing it too soon is a top cause of workout injuries. As you begin a new workout, plan to start slowly. Each week, increase the speed, distance, and/or intensity of your type of workout to give your body time to adjust.
Get Enough Rest
For the greatest fitness gains and the least risk of injury, your body needs to rest from exercise one to three days a week. Overtraining puts your muscles and joints at risk for injury. A day of rest between weight lifting or challenging cardio workouts allows your muscles the time needed to repair damage and form new muscle cells, which provides more protection against injury. And always listen to your body! Stop exercise and take a day off if you feel any discomfort or pain.
Hydrate and Fuel Your Body
Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workout is key to avoiding dehydration, especially if it’s hot, humid, or your workouts are longer than an hour. You should also eat a snack with carbohydrates before your workout to fuel your body. After your workout, replenish your energy stores with a small meal or snack that includes carbohydrates and protein.
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