Whether you’re new to the gym or a veteran gym rat, no one ever wants to be sidelined with an injury. Believe it or not, the gym is a pretty risky place. A lot of people actually end up hurting themselves instead of helping themselves while trying to get into or stay in shape. And then what happens? Usually everything you worked so hard for goes right down the drain and when you’re all healed up, you’re right back to square one. To help you remain injury free (and therefore happy), I’ve come up with some tips that will help you stay in the gym and out of the doctor’s office:
We all know how important it is to get the proper amount of rest but did you know it can help you avoid an injury at the gym? Most exercises require a decent amount of concentration. That foggy head that you have when you’re tired doesn’t do much for your concentration or coordination. If you do decide to drag yourself to the gym on a day that you’re totally exhausted (which I’m guilty of doing), try a lighter routine that day. You’ll still accomplish something, you won’t feel guilty for skipping a workout and you’ll avoid a potential injury.
The gym is as much about physical stamina as it is mental stamina. You need to be alert and tuned into what you’re doing. If you have your phone with you for music, at least put it on “do not disturb” or something similar to that. There’s nothing worse than having your phone constantly going off and distracting you during a workout. And while it’s hard to put all of your thoughts aside while you’re working out, you should try to as much as you can. You’re at the gym, so be there. Deal with everything else when you’re done.
You should loosen up your muscles both before AND after your workout. If your muscles are tight prior to your workout you run the risk of straining them. If you do some light stretching after a workout it will help to reduce the amount of post-workout soreness that you might experience.
4) Proper footwear
Think of working out as building yourself from the ground up. You can’t build a strong body without a solid foundation. Part of what can help you to create that solid foundation is investing in the proper footwear. While some sneakers may be stylish…that’s about all they are. When it comes to footwear for the gym, look for sneakers that offer a combination of cushioning and support. Having the right footwear will help you to avoid aching feet, knees and hips. And the less you ache the more likely you’ll be to keep up with your workout routine.
Pre-Workout: Having a snack about 20-30 minutes before your workout will help you to maintain your energy throughout your workout. You’ll also be less likely to become dizzy and fatigued as your workout goes on.
Post-Workout: Having a snack right after your workout will help your muscles recover and will help to build lean muscle. For your pre and post workout snacks try to have a combination of both a healthy protein and a good carbohydrate. Having the time to get the perfect snacks together can be challenging, so do what works for you. I usually stick to things that are quick such as a banana and peanut butter, a 0% fat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit (no fruit on the bottom) or unsalted nuts and an apple.
6) Increase Slowly
So you think you’re ready to up the ante? Awesome! If you can do 10-12 reps of an exercise at the current weight that you’re using, your body has probably adjusted and you’re ready to hit things a little harder. Just don’t increase everything all at once! For example, if you think your legs are ready for a new challenge, don’t increase the weight for all of your leg exercises on the same day (you’ll be crawling up any stairs). Also, try to increase the weight for an exercise in 3-5 lb increments. Lastly, whenever you increase the weight that you’re using it’s best to decrease the reps until you know how the new weight will work for your body. Increasing too much and too quickly are some of the leading causes of injuries at the gym.
7) Watch Your Form
If you’re not sure about how to do an exercise – ask! Having improper form can cause you to strain and overuse certain muscle groups. A session with a personal trainer is a lot cheaper than multiple physical therapy sessions to help heal your injury!
8) The Bosu Ball Is Your Friend
Incorporating a bosu ball into your workout will help to improve the strength of the connective tissue around your joints and the stability of your core. Everything adds up!
9) Mix It Up
If you hit your arms hard one day, don’t hit them hard again the next day. Try working different parts of your body on different days and mixing up your strength training and cardio routines. Varying the type and intensity of your workouts will help you to avoid overuse injuries.
Be sure to always take at least one full day off from working out per week. If you neglect taking a rest day you are setting yourself up for a serious overuse injury (or injuries).
11) Do YOU!
This is one of my favorite statements, especially when it comes to the gym. Don’t let your family, friends or personal trainer talk you into anything that you know will leave you hurting (and not just sore). Do a workout that is challenging but also one that works for YOUR body.
~Kayla Montanye, GTS Clothing
Connect with Kayla on Twitter at @kmontanye30
Photo credits: www.localfitness.com.au and Danielle Walquist Lynch