Nothing is more detrimental to reaching your fitness goals than injury. Unfortunately, over the course of a year, a disturbing number of exercisers get injured, especially those who are new to working out.
Preventing injury was critical to our cave-dwelling ancestors. Even a relatively minor injury could have lethal consequences.
Fortunately, most exercise induced injuries can be healed with rest and either home-made remedies or a little physiotherapy.
Here are some key concepts in preventing common workout injuries:
Warm up before you work out. This is the most basic rule for preventing injuries. Your muscles, tendons and circulatory system all require an adequate warm-up to function properly. Regardless of the type of exercise you’re doing, you should start with very light cardiovascular exercise for 5-10 minutes to get your heart rate going and warm up your large muscle groups. If you’re doing some strength training, make sure the first set or two involves relatively light weights that you can handle easily. The more you give your body a chance to prepare for what’s coming, the less likely it is that you’ll be injured and the better you’ll perform.
Use proper form. No matter what exercise you’re performing, make sure that you use proper form and technique. Far too often, injuries are a result of using bad form and putting undue strain on muscles or their supporting structures.
Hire a personal trainer. Hiring a professional is a good idea, especially for newer exercisers. A certified fitness trainer can help you avoid mistakes and spot minor problems before they become major ones. You don’t necessarily need a trainer all the time, but it’s a good idea to have someone to guide you through the fitness process for at least a few sessions until you gain some confidence and experience.
Stay within yourself. Most injuries occur because of the two most common fitness mistakes: too much and too soon. Make sure you start at a level that is well within your ability and build up gradually. We all want fast results; unfortunately the pursuit of instant success usually leads to injuries, burnout or both. As with the famous fable, slow and steady progress often beats rushing and recklessness.
Plan for adequate recovery. No one can train hard every day and get away with it for long. Make sure you build adequate recovery and rest days into your program, even if you don’t feel like you need it. When you’re rested and recovered, not only are your muscles better prepared to handle the load, your mind is also more focused and your technique is likely to be better than if you’re running yourself ragged.
Tend to injuries immediately when they occur. This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people try to push through injuries and keep going. This strategy usually ends up making a minor injury a major one. If you’re hurt, the best strategy is to follow the traditional RICE plan—Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation of the injured body part.
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