Nothing puts a damper on your workout plan quite like getting injured. Injuries can set you back in your training and even be so traumatic that you won’t want to go back to your program after you’re healed. Unfortunately, a University of Arkansas study found that there has been a 35 percent increase in gym injuries in recent years.
On the bright side, you can fairly easily prevent injury while you work out by following a few simple guidelines.
- Know your limits. “One more rep,” “just work a little harder,” “push yourself”—these all encouraging words to hear when you’re looking for motivation in your workouts, but remember as you listen to others’ advice, the most important thing to listen to is your own body. Pain and discomfort are okay during an intense workout, but know the difference between temporary pain and something more serious, like tears, twists and sprains.
- Warm up and cool down. This isn’t rocket science. Get the blood flowing; get your muscles ready to work. Don’t run into the gym and start throwing around hundreds of pounds without doing some warm-up sets. Likewise, at the end of your workout, don’t forget to stretch. Stretching won’t eliminate your soreness, but it will help prepare your muscles for your next workout.
“Post-workout stretches… complement your routine to bring your body to the equilibrium it needs after an intense session.” (Art of Strength)
- Form form form! It doesn’t matter how much weight you lifted or how many rounds you completed if your form is wrong. Bad form can lead to all kinds of problems, particularly things like knee and back injury. Making sure your knees aren’t buckling and coming together at the bottom of your squat is far more important than getting your numbers higher. You want to be able to use those knees for a long time. If you’re new to the gym, you might want to get a trainer for a few sessions to go over the basics of form with you. If you’ve been working out for a while and have a pretty good idea of what good form looks like, then use the tools available to you to check yourself regularly—watch yourself in the mirror or have someone take a video of your movement so you can watch it and catch any mistakes.
“Those mirrors in the gym are not there just for vanity—they’re actually there to make sure your knees are not over your ankles when doing squats, or that your hands aren’t too wide during those wide-grip bench presses.” – Dr. Vonda Wright, Inspiyr
- Rest. Give your body the proper break it needs to recover. Over-training can be dangerous and, even if you don’t injure yourself, can actually slow down the progress you’ve made. Don’t feel guilty for taking your rest days. Remember that it is part of the program; just as important as putting in the hard work of training.
“Building recovery time into any training program is important because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Recovery also allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues.” – Elizabeth Quinn
- Eat right.I really can’t emphasize the importance of proper nutrition enough. If you need a refresher course, read my post about why nutrition is the first and most crucial step to getting into shape. You’ve got to eat right in order to get your body the fuel it needs to perform in a workout and properly recover afterward.
This article is also featured in Hampton Roads Magazine.