8 Vital Injury-Prevention Practices for Your Workouts

If you get hurt working out, you have to quit exercising for a while. Although it’s true that you should expect some “burn” or discomfort during your workout, real pain is a warning sign that you’re doing something wrong. To keep doing right, observe these 8 injury-prevention tricks from the pros:

1. Know the Danger Zones

Mayo Clinic resources split exercise injuries by cause. Training errors are injury-causing mistakes that happen because you’re training too aggressively. Technique errors are hazardous problems with your form. A session with a personal trainer can help you spot and avoid both types of errors.

2. Warm Up

Exercising without warming up is like stretching a cold rubber band, says “Get Fit Guy” Ben Greenfield. Instead, warm up with some light cardio or simply do some preliminary sets at very low weights to get your body ready to work out. Although stretching is a common warmup in amateur circles, it’s not the best choice. It’s not as good as light cardio for injury prevention, and stretching for flexibility is best done at the end of your workout.

3. Periodically Change Workouts

Changing your workout every six to eight weeks accomplishes two important safety goals. It helps avoid repetitive stress injuries by shifting the focus of your workout. It also avoids the risk of training a specific muscle group so much that surrounding, unworked muscles can’t handle the load.

4. Dress Right

This injury prevention tip happens before your workout even starts. If working with machines, avoid loose clothes and clothes with straps. If jogging, wear good shoes with comfortable socks to avoid blisters. Exercise outside requires clothing appropriate for the weather. Ask your personal trainer or gym staff if you have any questions about the right ensemble for your workout.

5. Set Reasonable Goals

It’s easy to get excited and aggressive during the first months of a workout routine, which often means going too hard, too soon. Martial arts teacher Tom Callos recommends setting low short-term goals to ease into your regimen. Gradually increase those goals over the long haul for impressive overall gains.

6. Check Your Equipment

Workout equipment is only safe if properly calibrated and checked for problems. Before you begin any workout, scan the device for damage. Confirm that settings like the seat height and angle of lift are appropriate for your body. If you’re not certain, check with gym staff.

7. Hydrate Early and Often 

If your muscles are even mildly dehydrated, they’re more susceptible to cramps, pulls and tears. Moderate dehydration can affect your judgment and cause dizziness. Drink before your workout and sip during. Remember: if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

8.  Protect Your Back

Back injuries are among the easiest to get while exercising, among the most debilitating while you have them and among the hardest to recover from. According to resources at Bodybuilding.com, most back injures are due to improper form while exercising. The best form for protecting your back varies by exercise, but as a general rule keep your back straight and aligned. Move using your back muscles only if an exercise specifically requires it. Otherwise, use your legs and hips.

Sources

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/overuse-injury/my01092http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/overuse-injury/my01092

http://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-08-2012/how-to-avoid-injury-during-exercise.html

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/save-your-spine-10-tips-for-avoiding-the-misery.html

Postpartum Fitness: How to Get Back in Shape After Having a Baby

After giving birth last fall, one of the first questions I had for my midwife was, “When can I exercise again?” I ran until I was 7 months pregnant, when I had to hang up my running shoes due to health concerns. So I couldn’t wait to get moving again. (Information on keeping a safe running routine throughout pregnancy can be found here.)

But starting a fitness plan postpartum requires that you take special care. Whether you’re an athlete eager to get back into your favorite sport or you’re looking for a way to shed the pregnancy pounds, you can safely get in shape after having a baby.

Getting Started

Being active boasts a bunch of health benefits for new moms. Exercise can boost your energy, reduce postpartum fatigue, fight stress, improve your mood, strengthen your muscles and help you lose weight. Plus, you’ll be setting up lifelong healthy habits and be a good role model for your child.

Before you head to the gym, though, you’ll need to get the OK from your doctor or midwife. Delivering a baby takes a toll on your body, and it can take weeks to recover (or even months if you delivered by cesarean section or had a difficult childbirth). Rest is usually best in the first few weeks after having a baby.

Experts say that most postpartum women can do some light walking as soon as they feel up to it. In general, women who delivered vaginally can start more vigorous exercise at 6 weeks postpartum, and women who delivered by C-section can engage in more intense activity 6 to 8 weeks after childbirth. But know that every woman is different and recovery times vary. Always ask your doctor how long you should wait after the birth of your baby before resuming or starting an exercise program.

Sticking With It

Still, even if you have clearance from your doctor, wait until your body feels ready before you move from walking to more intense activities. Once you feel ready to exercise, follow these tips for success:

·         Ease into it. Doing too much before your body is healed can be a recipe for disaster. You risk injury if you jump into intense exercise too soon. Take it slow and, in time, you’ll be able to gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workout sessions.

·         Have realistic expectations. You just had a baby! You are likely sleep deprived and stressed. If you don’t have the stamina for your planned workout one day, don’t sweat it. Just take a walk instead. Remember that even a little bit of exercise is better than none. Pop baby into a jogging stroller and get going! (with luck he’ll even finally fall asleep!)

·         Stay well hydrated. Be mindful to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. This is especially crucial for breast-feeding women because you lose fluids during nursing sessions. Drinking enough water throughout the day can help you feel more energized and combat fatigue.

·         Plan ahead if you’re breast-feeding. In the first few months postpartum, you may feel more comfortable if you exercise immediately after nursing your baby. Note that working out will not negatively impact your milk supply.

·         Watch for warning signs. If you have bright red vaginal bleeding that’s heavier than a period, stop exercising at once and get medical help.

New moms: how do you make time for fitness? I like to multi-task; I used to lift weights and do jumping jacks while my son played on his activity mat.

Sources:

http://www.permanente.net/homepage/kaiser/pdf/116.pdf

http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq131.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121001T1136080662

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise-after-pregnancy/MY00477/NSECTIONGROUP=2

Understanding Sweat

Sweat is one of those aspects of exercise, along with exhaustion and muscle soreness, that we just learn to live with, as much as we may dislike it. Some people, though, learn to embrace sweat.

For these exercisers, sweat is a sign that they’re doing something right, that they’re releasing toxins and burning off all that fat. A lot of us may feel that we haven’t worked out hard enough if we don’t emerge from the gym dripping in sweat.

But is perspiration really an accurate measure of workout intensity? Let’s examine what purpose sweat plays and what factors affect how much we sweat to decide that answer for ourselves.

Purpose of Sweat

There are several methods your body uses to maintain a healthy internal temperature, with sweat being the primary tool.

When your body’s temperature rises, whether from external heat, exercise or a combination of the two, the hypothalamus sends an activation signal to the sweat glands that are spread throughout your skin. These glands produce the fluid we call sweat, which absorbs the heat and rests on the surface of the skin. Once the sweat evaporates, it cools the body.

Controlling Factors

Even when you aren’t exercising, your muscles are working constantly, and when muscles work, they produce heat. This heat, logically, increases when we exercise and demand more from our muscles. But more than exertion controls how much we sweat. Gender, age and fitness level all contribute to our sweat patterns, and the environment in which we are exercising plays one of the most powerful roles.

Men tend to sweat more than women and women seem to start to sweat at higher temperatures than men do. Statistically, as people age they seem to sweat less but this could be because of declining fitness levels. The more trained your body is, the fitter you are, the more efficiently it will process heat and you will sweat less.

When the air around you is cooler than your body, you radiate heat through your skin into the air. Conduction is the direct transfer of heat from contact, like when you swim in cold water. Convection is a reaction to cold air passing over your skin. Evaporation, from sweat, is perfectly suited for when the air around you is hotter than your internal temperature.

Confusion arises, though, when that hot air is also humid. In that case, sweat can’t evaporate and will just collect on the skin until it starts to drip, making it look like you’re sweating excessively.

Warnings

If you are dripping with sweat, it’s a signal that your body isn’t cooling down effectively, and that you could be in danger of overheating. To help sweat serve its purpose properly, avoid exercising in extreme heat and humidity.

Certain forms of exercise, such as Bikram yoga, are specifically performed in hot, humid environments, though. If you partake in these forms of exercise, where the point is to work up an intense sweat, make sure to stay hydrated with electrolyte-enriched drinks.

Be careful to stay properly hydrated no matter what kind of exercise you’re doing. The typical recommendations for hydration are one to two cups of water two hours before exercising, a half cup to a cup during and two and a half  cups in the half hour following exercise. Your individual hydration needs will be different, so listen to your body and drink when you’re thirsty.

Whew! Wipe your brow. So although sweat isn’t necessarily an accurate measurement of your workout’s intensity, it does play an important role in keeping your body healthy. Just don’t forget your sweat towel.

Sources

http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/3598/1/If-You-Dont-Sweat-During-Exercise-Is-It-A-Waste-Of-Time.html

http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/information/anatomy/how-sweat-works2.htm

10 Ways to Keep Your Cool When Exercising in the Heat

Like many athletes, I spend each winter counting down the days until spring. I am not a fan of running or biking in the cold, so the warm weather is always a nice welcome. But before too long, summer comes — and I’m complaining about the heat!

Exercising in the summer is more than just uncomfortable. It can be downright dangerous if you don’t take measures to protect yourself.

This doesn’t mean you have to confine your workouts to the indoors from June through August in order to exercise safely. Instead, simply follow these tips to stay comfortable - and safe - during a hot summer workout:

1.   Get your sweat on in the early morning or late evening. Don’t exercise at midday, because that’s when temperatures are at their highest and the sun’s hot rays are at their peak. You’ll stay much cooler during your workout if you either set your alarm a bit earlier or wait until after dinner to be active.

2.   Drink before you’re thirsty. Staying well-hydrated is the secret to avoiding dangerous heat-related conditions. Drink up before you’re thirsty, because our thirst sensation generally doesn’t appear until we’re already a bit dehydrated. Ideally you should drink a glass or two of water before you head out to exercise, drink more after every fifteen minutes or so of activity, and keep hydrating once you get home. When you exercise intensely, or for an extended period of time, drink a sports beverage to replace the salt and other electrolytes you lose through sweat.

3.   Shield yourself from the sun. Sunburn inhibits your body’s ability to cool itself. Lather up with SPF 15 sunscreen or higher thirty minutes before you plan to head outdoors. Wearing a hat and sunglasses will also protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.

4.   Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Moisture-wicking apparel will help you stay cool and dry, and lighter colored clothes help reflect heat better than darker clothes.

5.   Seek shade. If you’re a road runner, the summer is a perfect time to try trail running. The shade from the trees will keep you cooler than the open, baking road.

6.   Take plenty of breaks. Rest early and often, and take breaks whenever you need them. In hot weather, it’s always better to err on the side of caution than to push yourself too far.

7.   Gradually get used to the heat. It typically takes 10 to 14 days for your body to get used to exercising in a new climate. Start by working out for short time, at a relatively low intensity. Hold off on doing long, hard workouts until you’re better acclimated to the hot weather.

8.   Check the weather forecast. If it’s going to be a real scorcher, do not exercise outside. It’s not safe - or smart - to push yourself through an outdoor workout when a heat advisory is in place.

9.   Know when to stop. If you have muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache, dizziness, and/or confusion stop your workout right away. These are signs of heat-related illnesses which can be life-threatening if not caught in time.

10. Have a Plan B. If the heat is too much for you on certain days, stick with indoor workouts. Exercise in an air-conditioned environment such as a gym or yoga studio. Or, consider purchasing a piece of fitness equipment so you can be active in the comfort of your own home. Check out this LIVESTRONG elliptical for sale.

What’s your favorite time of year to exercise? What are your tips for beating the heat?

Sources:

http://www.active.com/fitness/Articles/8_Tips_for_Exercising_in_Summer_Heat.htm

http://www.active.com/women/Articles/How-to-Adapt-to-the-Heat-for-Summer-Runs.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ00316

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/information/summer-exercise-safety.htm

http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/02/20/dehydration-influences-mood-cognition/35037.html

http://www.acefitness.org/fitnessqanda/fitnessqanda_display.aspx?itemid=281

8 Steps to Succeed on Race Day

There’s nothing like the anticipation of race day. The miles you’ve run in preparation for the big event on your LIVESTRONG 10.0t treadmill are behind you. But while your training may have come to an end, you still have work to do if you want to succeed on race day.

Whether you’ll be running, cycling, swimming or all three, the choices you make in the days before a race can make the difference between a positive and negative experience. Following these tips will leave you as prepared as possible, and grinning all the way to the finish line.

1. Trust your training plan. In the last few weeks before a race, a training plan will call for a “taper.” Tapering means you shorten the length and possibly the intensity of your workouts in order to help your legs recover from a demanding training schedule, and make them fresh for race day.

Not doing long, tough workouts in the final weeks before your race can be mentally tough for athletes, but resist the urge to do a few extra miles. Your body will thank you during the race.

2. Don’t try anything new. Don’t break in a new pair of shoes on race day unless you want blisters. Instead, start training in the shoes you’ll wear during the race at least few weeks before the big day. Similarly, don’t race in your event shirt or any other new clothes. New apparel may appear comfortable, but there’s no way to know beforehand if it will cause chafing or other problems. Do a test run or two in your race day outfit to make sure it works.

As with clothing and equipment, a race is no time to experiment with food. Don’t “carbo load” the night before your event unless you’ve been eating carbohydrate-heavy meals throughout your training. If you regularly eat a carbohydrate-rich diet with variety, you’ll likely have enough energy. Try out your pre-event meals in the weeks before race day to see how various foods affect your stomach. This way you’ll avoid digestive problems – and possibly extra bathroom breaks – during the event.

3. Set out your clothes and other race essentials the night before. Make a checklist early in the week and use it to make sure you have everything. Going to a destination race? Pack your bag early and double check your gear. Note that many triathlons will not let you compete without a wet suit or a bike helmet.

4. Rest up. Sleep is essential in the days leading up to a race, and so is conserving your energy. Don’t spend the entire day before your race at the expo; you don’t want to tire your legs out before the start.

5. Be familiar with the course. Studying the course map and elevation (often available on the race’s website) before the race gun goes off can be invaluable. You may reconsider sprinting to the finish if you know the last mile is uphill.

6. Start slowly. Pre-race jitters and excitement may cause you to start out too fast, causing burnout in later miles. Instead, take a few deep breaths and start at an easy, comfortable pace.

7. Stay hydrated. Begin hydrating two days before the race, and drink up during the event too. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking five to 12 ounces of water or sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes during a marathon.

8. Have fun! There are a lot of tips and suggestions and instructions to keep in mind, but don’t forget that race day is a celebration of your hard work and dedication. Soak up the excitement and enjoy the trip to the finish.

What are your best tips for race day success?

Sources:

http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-244-255-5958-0,00.html

http://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/running_a_marathon_race_day_success/index.html

http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/beginners/your-first-10k-five-easy-steps/6843-6.html