Working out is supposed to boost your health, not send you rushing to the ER or sitting with an ice pack on the side of the gym. It’s really important to prevent gym-related injuries so that you can make your workouts really work for you instead of against you. Here are 8 smart tips to prevent injuries.
- Learn the right technique. If you lift dumbbells incorrectly, you could tear connective tissues and get really hurt. On the other hand, not paying attention to your form during exercise could make you dislocate a joint. Make sure you take the time to learn the right way to do certain moves in the gym. If you’re just starting out, don’t be afraid to ask a trainer for assistance.
- Always warm up. Light and quick movements as part of a warmup exercise before your workout help to warm up your muscles – literally by raising their temperature. They also encourage your muscles to have greater flexibility, which is key to preventing injuries. Never be too lazy to warm up before you get into your workout routine! Examples of warm-up exercises include jumping rope for a few minutes or doing some squats.
- Throw in some stretching. This is different from warming up. You might want to stretch after a gentle warmup as it helps to loosen your muscles. Stretching should be done on areas of the body where you feel tension, as this points to a problem in that muscle that needs some care and attention. Over time, stretching helps to make you more flexible and increase your range of movement, which helps to protect your body against muscle strains and injuries. An example of a stretching exercise includes a hamstring stretch in which you lie down with your knees bent before moving one leg straight into the air until you feel the back of your leg stretch. Repeat with the other leg.
- Never train too often. Listen to your body. There’s no magic number of times you should work out weekly – it really depends on your body’s limitations. If you’re feeling tired or a bit sore after working out five times in a week, give yourself a day or two as a break. If you push yourself, you actually interfere with your muscles and nervous system which need a bit of downtime after lots of exertion.
- Mix up your workout routine. Don’t stick to one type of exercise every day as this puts pressure on certain muscles in your body. Keep your workout varied by avoiding too much running which can lead to shin splints or adding swimming or lifting weights to your routine. The benefit is that a combination of different exercises will give your overall body a workout, not just target specific muscles.
- Bring a bottle of water. Staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise can be really good at preventing injuries – and science backs it up. According to Harvard research, when you work out, you sweat, which makes you lose essential fluids your body needs to get through your exercise. If you’re battling to get through a workout, this can make you more susceptible to losing focus and getting injured.
- Gear up. What you wear during your workouts can help you to prevent injuries. For example, buy a pair of sneakers with supportive arches and cushioned heels as these will absorb the shock to your muscles and bones while making your workout much more comfortable. Your clothing choices should include loose but comfortable clothing. Ultimately, you want clothes that give you room to move. If they get in the way of your movements, they can indirectly cause you to get injured.
- Don’t be a hero. Although you might want to rush into a new workout routine or lift weights that are much heavier than what you’re used to, doing these things can cause you to get injured. For example, if you’re lifting heavier weights than what your body can handle while holding your breath, this can lead to a hernia. Yikes. Always ease into new workouts and slowly work your way up to handling heavier equipment. You don’t have to impress the woman who’s watching from across the room, seriously.