Exercise is a great way to improve and maintain your health. Before engaging in an exercise regime, it is wise to check with your doctor if you have had any past injuries. Old injuries may become irritated by an increase (or the start of) physical activity and structured exercise.
Likewise, if you have a chronic health condition a doctor will know whether to impose limitations and provide guidelines so that you can safely start or increase your exercises. Here are some tips to consider before starting exercise so that you can avoid injuries while working towards your fitness goals.
1. Warm-Up Your Body
Get on the treadmill or walk in place at a low pace to increase your body’s core temperature. This warm-up provides oxygen to your muscles and gets your blood circulating (it usually takes two minutes for your cardiovascular system to kick in).
The joints of your body are surrounded by a fluid that helps the joint to move. With a proper five to ten minute warm up the joints produce more of this fluid. A proper warm-up is an essential part of your workout so that you can avoid injuries.
2. Listen to Your Body
Most importantly, listen to your body – no one else can tell you how you feel but you. Your body communicates with you if you feel the pain that is not consistent with working out hard (sore muscles or a good burn) that is your body’s way of telling you to stop. Since pain is a communication system it is not a good idea to take pain relievers prior to exercise since you will be masking your body’s warning signs. The effects can be overuse injuries to tendons, ligaments, soft tissue (muscles), or the joint itself.
Tendons and ligaments do not get good blood supply and may take many weeks to heal if injured. This can side rail your exercise efforts and if you are just starting out that can be enough to discourage any further attempts at becoming fit. If you have strained a muscle or irritated joint try acupuncture. Acupuncture benefits include lessening pain and stiffness in the joints, increased muscle recovery, headache and stress relief.
3. Dynamic Warm-Up for The Joints
Before you lift weights or use the resistance machines, be sure that you are warming the joints before you dive in. Shoulder circles, small leading to bigger, are a great way to warm up your shoulder joint, one of the most frequently injured joints. This is because the shoulder joint has the greatest degree of movement, the trade-off? Less stability. Hip circles are a great way to warm up the hip joints.
Knee circles will warm up the knees, taking a split stance towards a wall and shifting your body towards the wall will help to warm up your ankle joints and get the calves ready. After you perform your cardiovascular warm-up and dynamic stretching it is time to either get back on your chosen piece of cardio equipment or move to a few warm-up sets if your intention is to lift weights.
4. Warm-Up Sets for Strength Training
Prior to your weight lifting workout it is important to perform 2-3 warm-up sets at a lighter weight, these are considered warm upsets. Perform these warm-up sets with the same exercise that begins your workout. After the warm-up sets are completed your body is ready to lift the working weight (the weight you plan on training with).
5. Static Stretches to Cool Down
When all exercises have been completed in the weight training session it is good practice to stretch with no movement, these are called static stretches. Be sure to include stretches for the muscles that you specifically trained. For example, if you worked your chest, shoulders, and triceps, then be sure to stretch all these muscle groups.
A thirty-second hold completed two times for each stretch will help to increase the muscles to their resting length again. Muscles get tight after contracting and can cause slight pain and discomfort throughout the day. All it takes is 3-5 minutes to cool down.
6. Keep in Mind the Climate
Be sure to stay hydrated when exercising in warmer weather. If the temperature exceeds eighty degrees’ Fahrenheit plan to workout indoors in an air-conditioned gym or atmosphere. On the other hand, if the temperature is cold take care to dress in layers.
Another of the important tips to consider before exercising to avoid injury is to focus on what you are doing. The gym can be a distracting place but don’t allow yourself to get caught up in everything everyone else is doing. Pay attention to what you are doing so that you are not mindlessly lifting, running, biking, or rowing.
Going through the motions will not only stagnant your gains, but it can also lead to injuries from improper movements. Consider hiring a personal trainer to keep you focused on yourself if the focus is a problem for you.
8. Proper Foot Wear to Avoid Ankle, Knee, and Hip Injuries
If you plan on being active you must invest in a great pair of athletic shoes. The body is a kinetic chain if your ankles are not properly supported it will affect your knees, hips, and spine. Wendy Bumgardner points out that athletic shoes are only built to last between 350-500 miles.
9. Start Slow When Beginning to Lift
This goes for not only the novice lifter but an experienced lifter that has taken time away from lifting. When starting a strength program with weights it is important to first practice the form. For an experienced lifter, who is out due to illness or a prolonged rest, it is best to start at a certain percentage of weight lifted rather than jump in with top weight lifted as this can lead to injuries that will sideline you again. This does not get anyone closer to their strength goals. Runners need to start or progress their programs slowly as well.
According to WebMD being overly aggressive when starting to run or adding too much distance and time to your run at once can cause issues with your knees and Achilles tendon.
10. A Note About DOMS
DOMS is an acronym for Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. It is normal to be a bit sore after pushing past a threshold whether that is not being sedentary, pushing past a previous running goal, or besting your weight, repetitions, or sets in your strength program. But pay attention to how your body reacts after your session.
Muscle soreness for 24-48 hours post-training is normal for some people but DOMS is an indication that you have pushed too hard and your body is having a hard time recuperating from the stress imposed.
DOMS, as the name suggests, set in several days following that exercise session. DOMS can affect your training schedule, the intensity in which you train, your motivation to want to train due to being overly sore, and if you decide to lift it can cause injuries since your body is not ready to be pushed again.
Exercise is a wonderful thing and provides more benefits than disadvantages. The key to exercising to improve or maintain health is to do it smartly.
Pay attention to what you are doing, your body’s feedback, how you take care of yourself after you impose demands on your body, and these tips to consider before starting exercise so that you can avoid injuries and you will be well on your way to achieving your fitness goals injury-free.