Whether you’re an exercise enthusiast or a star athlete, incurring injuries during workouts is not uncommon and can sideline you for weeks or months. Lifting weight that is too heavy, using poor form, or not warming up adequately are just some of the causes of injuries. Common injuries include sprains, knee and shoulder injuries, pulled and strained muscles, tendinitis, and shin splints. I’ve put together some valuable tips you can incorporate into your practice to minimize your risk of injuries.
1. Start with a warm-up. A few minutes of moderate-level cardio exercises before your workout increases the oxygenated blood flowing to all the parts of your body and gradually and safely increases your heart rate. Get on a cardio machine such as a stationary bike, a treadmill or an elliptical. If you don’t have access to machines, you can jog or walk on the spot or do some dynamic stretches. Five to 10 minutes is adequate for most people.
2. Progress slowly. Whatever you’re doing in your workout, build up the difficulty level slowly and safely over time. This includes the intensity, duration and frequency of cardio exercise, as well as the amount of weight and number of repetitions in strength-building exercises. If you’re new to a group fitness class, trying to keep up with the instructor or experienced participants may result in injury.
3. Know when to have someone spot you. For example, if you’re attempting a bench press with heavy weights or weights that are heavier than what you’re used to, ask someone competent to spot you. The spotter’s position as well as their handgrip position (e.g., mixed grip) can mean the difference between a failed lift and a failed lift resulting in a serious injury.
4. Learn how to use the equipment correctly. Your safest bet is to get proper instruction from a qualified personal trainer. You’ll find many well-intentioned people who are happy to show you how to use a piece of gym equipment, but that doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing or that they know the best practices for safety.
5. Employ good form. Each exercise requires a particular stance (e.g., maintaining the spine’s natural curves or a specific positioning of the feet) or engagement of various muscles (e.g., the abdominals). Something as basic as a bicep curl or a squat can lead to injury if not performed correctly.
6. Cross-train. Don’t do the same thing day after day. It can lead to an overuse injury. It’s tempting to want to do your favourite types of exercise and avoid other activities, but it’s a good idea to mix things up. If your passion is running, add some strength training on alternate days. If you only do weight lifting, try something aerobic.
7. Wear appropriate workout attire. Baggy-legged pants may be your fashion choice, but they can be a tripping hazard at the gym especially on the treadmill. Well-worn sneakers may feel comfortable, but if they don’t give your feet the proper support, you can end up with pain in your feet, knees or hips. Clothing that chafes can result in sore and irritated skin on various parts of your body. Invest in a few staple articles of athletic wear and a pair of running shoes.
8. Eat and hydrate. People trying to lose weight may think that working out on an empty stomach is a fast track to a svelte figure; however, you can become weak, dizzy and even faint and hurt yourself. Eat something nutritious before your workout to give you energy and drink water during your workout so you can perform optimally and safely.
9. Get a good night’s sleep. Teenage athletes who get less than eight hours of sleep per night on a regular basis are at significantly increased risk for sports-related injuries (https://tinyurl.com/ydhn9jec). Similarly, chronic sleep deprivation at any age can negatively affect cognitive function, which can lead to accidents or injuries due to lack of focus. Sleep allows microscopic tears that naturally occur to your muscle fibres during workouts to heal. Such recovery strengthens and develops your muscles and helps prevent injuries during subsequent workouts.
10. Cool down after exercise. Slowly bring your heart rate back down to normal with five to 10 minutes of easy walking or cycling. If you don’t take the time to cool down, you can experience a sudden drop in blood pressure and get dizzy or faint.
Now that you have great safety tips, go do some exercise!