In pursuit of a healthier, happier version of your body and self, it’s likely that you’ll take a few missteps along the way—including putting yourself at risk for workout injuries. That being said, you can take precautions to avoid workout injuries and keep yourself on track to meeting your fitness goals. Below, we’ve put together a list of five of the best tips for avoiding workout injuries. Train safely and have fun!
1. Warm Up and Stretch
A warm muscle will have better blood flow and flexibility than a cold muscle, reducing your likelihood of muscle strain and early onset fatigue. The best way to warm up your muscles is through an exercise that is low in intensity, but encourages your body to do a high number of repetitions at a quick pace. Examples of great warm up exercises include jogging, swimming, riding a stationary bike, and stair-climbing. Then, finish off your warm up with a deep stretch of the muscles you want to focus on, loosening up your muscles even further and maximizing your workout potential.
2. Take It Slow and Don’t Push Yourself
When we jump back on the fitness wagon after a long period of absence, it’s easy to forget that our bodies have probably gone through a few changes since the last time we worked out regularly. Oftentimes, this means that we’re likely to fall into old patterns and workout routines that our bodies would have handled fine ten to twenty years ago, but that put us at risk for injury now.
Similarly, if you’re just starting your fitness journey for the first time, it’s easy to become too eager and overdo your workouts in the process, whether by using an incorrect technique, adding too much weight, or performing cheating, forced, or negative reps incorrectly. Know the limits of your body and start off at a slower speed and lower intensity, building up your workouts for the best results.
3. Cross Train
Cross training refers to varying your workout to target specific muscle groups on different days, and it’s a fantastic way to achieve the results you want while giving your muscles the rest they need and avoiding the point of plateau in your workouts. Additionally, your body’s metabolism benefits from the diversity in your routine because it never gets the chance to become used to your exercises and reduce its fat-burning, so it’s a win-win situation; you get the results you want while treating your body right. Core training is an example of a great cross training staple, as training your core enables you to do other exercises correctly without reaching fatigue from your body compensating for a lack of core strength.
Also, if you over-train your muscles, you’ll notice a huge decrease in energy, halting your progress and preventing your muscles from growing due to your muscles having a reduced ability to recuperate. It’s recommended that gym-goers try to limit their training to three or four sessions each week, with each session lasting no more than one hour. And make sure that you actually rest on rest days!
4. Wear the Right Workout Clothes
The gym is no place for a fashion show, but wearing the right gear goes far beyond how good you’ll look. When you wear the right clothes for working out, they not only free up your movement, but also provide you with adequate support—especially when it comes to shoes. Worn-out running shoes are easily one of the most common sources of workout injuries. When your shoes don’t fit right, your feet can become pinched if the shoe is too tight, or they’ll slide around easily if the shoe is too loose. Similarly, if you’re doing another form of exercise, such as road cycling, wear a helmet that fits properly.
5. Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated
This tip might seem obvious for all general health topics; after all, we’ve heard this type of advice since our grade school days. However, what it means in terms of workout injury prevention is that you’ll have enough energy to complete your workouts safely and correctly.
Protein is recommended post-workout as a way to help repair muscles that have just been broken down, while carbohydrates give you energy for working out and prepare your glycogen stores to help with recovery and prepare for your next training session.
And if you’re on a diet that requires reduced caloric intake, train with lighter weights, since your body will be in a weakened and depleted state from the lack of calories. You can still train with intensity—just don’t overdo it, as listed in our second tip.