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.