Wow!!! Middle of July already! How are you doing with all of your fitness goals? Safely exercising is extremely important, because if you injure yourself, you won't be exercising for several weeks- maybe months! So, below you will find some great tips on protecting your body from injury.
1. Stretch or don't stretch?
A lot has changed over the years in regards to stretching. We used to stretch before working out, but have discovered that's not exactly a great idea. Before exercising you want to warm your muscles up, but, not with stretching. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury, such as a torn or pulled muscle. Instead, you want to jog or march in place- basically, get the blood flowing and start warming your muscles up. After exercising is a perfect time to stretch your muscles- they are nice and warm and much more flexible now. Take about 15 minutes, 3X a week, to get a good stretch in when you are done working out.
2. Do shoes matter?
Yes, they do!!! Some shoes are appropriate for certain workouts and others are not. I know a lot of people worry about cost if they have to buy several different pairs of shoes to exercise. But, your shoes will last longer if you don't wear the same pair every time you work out and you will be protecting yourself. For example: if you run trails, you want to invest in a good pair of trail running shoes. The tread is a bit thicker and is useful for running through rocks, mulch and over roots and uphills. If you are a road runner, you need a good pair of running shoes. Cross training shoes will not give you the stability that a good pair of running shoes will. Zumba is a popular workout right now, but you need to make sure you where a pair of shoes that give multi-directional support, such as a pair of cross trainers or a specialty dance-fitness shoe that is now available. When I teach or do spin class, I wear cycling shoes that clip into the pedals. It definitely gives me a better workout because my ability to fully engage the use of my legs and my core improves greatly with cycling shoes. And, making sure you replace your shoes in a timely manner is most important! You don't want to be exercising on shoes that don't have enough tread left, because that will cause many problems with your feet, which then leads to your knees, which leads to your back and so on!
3. Too much too fast?
Are you new to exercising? If you are, make sure you don't fall prey to the number one way that new people get injured- too much, too fast. Take it slow to start with and work up to more difficult workouts. If you have never exercised before you don't want to jump in with some high intensity interval training. You want to get your body used to cardiovascular exercise for a couple of weeks. Do some treadmill or elliptical workouts. You can even do a spin class, just take it a little slower- don't use as much tension and sit down more often. Now, I am the first one to tell you that exercise is going to hurt at times (in a good way!) and it should be difficult (most people don't work out as hard as they should). But, if you are totally new to this, you need to work up to a good difficulty level so that you don't hurt something or get entirely burned out because what you are doing is too hard. If you are doing a strength training class with dumbbells for the first time- go a little light with the weights to test things out and see what you can do. Or, start a little heavy, but keep a pair of lighter dumbbells nearby in case you need to switch. Pulling or tearing a muscle is painful and can take a long time to repair- I want you to keep working out, not have to sit out due to an injury!!
4. Bad form!
Correct form is so important when it comes to exercise, especially when strength training with weights. Always keep your back straight- whether you are sitting on a bench or standing. When you are sitting during a strength move, such as a reverse fly- make sure you are pinched forward at the hips- not with a curve in the back. Or, when you are doing a standing bent over row- you are bent forward at the hips with your back in a straight line and knees slightly bent. Doing squats with bad form is one of the easiest ways to injure your knees and back. Squats are an awesome exercise that works the entire lower body- you want to do them correctly though. Stand up straight, shoulders back, knees slightly bent (never lock out your knees), head in a neutral position (meaning not looking up or down, but your neck aligned with your spine), knees never extending past the toes as you are performing the squat. Your feet position can vary depending on the type of squat you are doing. The most popular would be with feet shoulder width apart. But, you can do sumo squats, squats with your feet closer together, or even split leg lunge squats. Muscle pain is a good thing- joint pain is a bad thing! And, always keep your joints such as knees and elbows slight bent and not locked out- you will protect the cartilage and avoid arthritis in the future!
5. Exercising with an injury- not a good idea!
Believe me- I can't stand to not work out, but, if you do so with an injury, you will further hurt yourself! I love to exercise- but, if I'm injured I have to make myself be good! Now, an injury won't totally exclude you from exercise- you just have to choose things that won't aggravate the injury. For instance, if you have a knee that is injured you can still do weight training with your upper body. Done in the correct manner, you can burn a lot of calories. Don't rest in between sets too long and you will keep your heart rate up. Super setting is a great way to do that. You can take two exercises that work opposing muscle groups, such as biceps and triceps and alternate them without rest in between. I will super set bicep curls and overhead triceps press. So, one set of bicep curls and then immediately into one set of overhead triceps press, back to one set of biceps and so on and so forth. If you have a back that is injured, depending on the type of injury, you could ride a stationary bike. If you are dealing with an injury, check with your doctor as to what type of exercise you can still safely do.
Our goal is to be able to safely exercise so as to obtain and enjoy all the incredible benefits of working out! If in doubt about something, check with your doctor or someone who specializes in exercise such as a certified personal trainer or exercise physiologist. As always, if you have any questions, let me know!!