Ask any gym pro or seasoned veteran, and they’ll say that technique is one of the most important things when it comes to weightlifting, working out or exercising. And although we are rehabilitation and therapy experts and not gym pros, we couldn’t agree more. Every day we see our fair share of patients who are suffering from pain or discomfort caused by improper exercising techniques and so for this month’s blog post, we’ve decided to provide you with tips for making your next gym visit or exercise session a safer one. Continue reading below for a handful of tips we feel are most valuable when it comes to your safety when exercising.
Warm-Up and Cool Down
Always leave enough time for an adequate warm-up before your workout and cool down at the end of your workout. Typically, 15 minutes of stretching and light exercise is enough. This will give your muscles and body enough time to ease in to or out of your workout and help you maintain a proper heart rate. And if you only have time for one or the other, we suggest prioritizing the warm-up. A proper warm-up gets the blood circulating through your body, but it also helps prevent injuries like muscle strains that can be caused by stiff muscles and joints. Think of it as starting your car on a winter morning. If you were to start your vehicle and then drive away immediately, it would more than likely feel underpowered, sluggish and almost as if it is resisting changing gears and turning the steering wheel. And on the other hand, if you started your car and let it warm up for a few minutes, it would more than likely drive normally.
Much like how a warm-up gives your body the chance to adjust to exercising, easing into exercising or starting slow has the same idea. Whether it’s your first time at the gym or out running in 24 hours or 24 days, starting easy gives your body the chance to get used to the specific movements and helps reduce the chance of injury. If you’re running, try starting with a light jog and slowly increasing your intensity. If you’re weight training, try starting 10-15 pounds lighter for your first set and slowly adding weight each time.
Listen To Your Body
As you increase your workout’s intensity, it’s essential to remain mindful of your body. Your body is good at telling you when enough is enough and not listening to it at these times could result in injury. Yes, exercising is about pushing your limit to be able to run further or lift heavier, but there’s a fine line between pushing your boundaries and pushing yourself too injury. Some of the things we recommend you watch for include: blurred vision, lightheaded symptoms, uncontrollable heavy breathing, muscle weakness to a point where you can’t support your own body and extreme fatigue. And if you experience any number of these things, that’s your body telling you it’s time to take a break or stop.
Be Mindful of Overtraining
Talking with a runner or weightlifter, you may hear them refer to a feeling or “high” they get when exercising that keeps them coming back. Yes, this feeling is a real thing, but it’s important to be mindful of overtraining when your exercise regimen gets to a level where you’re doing it every day. This is because overtraining can lead to serious injury, including stress fractures, muscle strains and inflammation. This is especially common in athletes who perform repetitive movements— weightlifters, swimmers, runners, etc.).
Remember Proper Form
As we mentioned above, proper form is critical when exercising. Much like how your posture affects the amount of pain and discomfort you feel, your form when exercising affects your chance of injury, the amount of pain you experience as well as your results. Everything from weightlifting to running has a proper technique and form, and it’s important to familiarize yourself with these before beginning.
Use Straps, Tape and Braces When Needed
As humans, we are not exempt from accidents— accidents that can cause injuries. So if you have a history of injuring a specific part of your body and know that exercising is going to put a lot of stress on this area, we suggest investing in supportive straps, tape or braces. These items can help you exercise pain-free, but can also help prevent another injury from happening. And although we recommend these items, we suggest you visit a Physiotherapist or other health care professional first to discuss your injury history and the right supportive option for you.
And even if you don’t have a history of injuries, there are supportive options that you can use to help prevent future injuries. Things like weightlifting belts, lifting straps, athletic insoles, and compression sleeves are all items that have been proven to help prevent various injuries.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Our bodies survive on water. In fact, 60% of the average adult body is composed of water. And on top of this, you can lose up to 1.5 litres of water for every hour of exercise. This is why it’s so important to make sure you’re drinking enough water before, during and after your workout. And even if you’re not exercising, you should be drinking at least 2 litres of water every day.
Those are just a small selection of the tips we think are most valuable when it comes to exercising safely. And even though you may follow all these tips, it’s important to remember that there is always a chance of injury or accident when exercising (albeit much less than if you don’t follow the above tips). If you suffer an injury while exercising and find that it hasn’t improved in a couple of weeks, we strongly recommend you consult with your Physiotherapist for an expert opinion. In some cases, more intensive rehabilitation is needed, but it’s nothing your Physiotherapist can’t help with.
If you have any questions regarding any of the tips above or physical therapy in general, we encourage you to reach out to us by phone, email or on social media. A member of our team would be happy to work with you.