Safe and Sound in 7
A sprained ankle, a pulled muscle, or pain in just a single joint can put a quick stop to your workout. You’ve finally made the commitment to exercise and you don’t want your progress to end because of a preventable injury. Plus, you don’t want to deal with the pain, doctor visits, and time required for recovery. How can you do it?
Reduce your risk for injury during your workouts by following a few simple rules.
Rule 1: Warm Up and Cool Down
Gentle exercises and stretches before and after your workout are for your good, so don’t skip them. A warm-up gets your body ready to exercise by loosening your muscles and joints and slowly increasing your heart rate. A cool-down period at the end of your workout allows your heart rate to gradually return to normal and works out lactic acid in your muscles so you don’t get as sore in the following days.
Rule 2: Start Slow
Anyone who’s out of shape or starting a new fitness program would do well to ease into exercise. Start out slowly and gradually increase intensity, distance, or length of time. Your body will thank you and you’ll be more likely to stick with the plan.
Rule 3: Get Rest
Challenging the same muscles every day can quickly cause wear and tear. A good way to avoid overuse injuries is to cross-train, which means varying your workouts each day. Alternate days spent on high-impact activities or lifting weights. Your muscles need a day or two between weight training to repair themselves, and high-impact activities like running put a strain on your joints if performed every day. Give yourself a break from exercise one to two days a week.
Rule 4: Don’t Let It Hurt
Yes, you may experience some soreness and your body may feel pushed to its limits, but exercise should never cause pain. The idea of “no pain, no gain” is a recipe for injury. When you feel pain, take it as a sign you need to slow down or quit for the day.
Part of avoiding injury is knowing your own body. Have weak knees? Suffered a shoulder injury in the past? Then your trainer needs to design a workout program that takes those conditions into account.
Rule 5: Wear the Right Equipment
Helmets, shin guards, and facemasks aren’t just for looks. They serve an important role in protecting players from injury. Whatever sport or exercise you participate in, be sure to wear the proper equipment. For running, that means a supportive pair of shoes; for cycling a helmet; and for hockey a mouth guard, helmet, and pads.
Rule 6: Use Proper Form
There’s a specific way to swing a golf club, hold a tennis racquet, strike your foot on the ground when you run, or lift weights. Improper form or technique can lead to injury. Repetitively doing movements the wrong way will lead to injury. Your personal trainer is a valuable resource for obtaining and maintaining proper form with each rep.
Rule 7: Hydrate
You’d be surprised at how much water your body loses during exercise. You may not realize you’re losing water if you’re not sweating profusely, but the average person loses between 27 and 47 ounces of water through sweat each hour of exercise. The warmer the temperature and the higher the humidity, the more fluids you lose and the greater your risk of dehydration. This is why it’s so important to hydrate before, during, and after exercise.