Staying Injury-Free at the Gym

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Injuries happen. When you least expect it, a devastating injury can leave you in pain and unable to do even the simplest of chores and activities. Injuries can even occur at your gym—where you go to stay healthy and strong! Awareness and education are key to preventing injuries so read on to help keep the unexpected from happening.

Start Slowly

As with any form of exercise or strenuous activity, an easy warm-up is one of the most important things you can do to help prevent injuries. We are not meant to get out of bed, sprint to the sink, and do 10 one-armed push-ups while brushing our teeth! You need to ease into your exercise routine with slow walking or another form of light cardiovascular exercise. Do this until your body starts to feel like it’s getting warm and loose. Once you feel warm, do a few gentle stretches to get limbered up.

Animals do this instinctively. My two lab mixes, Stella and Jessie, get up slowly and stretch for a minute before getting up for the day. Jessie does the “angry cat” stretch (arching the middle of her back to the ceiling) and Stella does the “downward dog” which I tell her SHE made famous—not Yoga. They do it every day—not because I tell them to, but because it’s important to them and helps get them ready to take on the day.

Treadmills

When walking or running on a treadmill, the most important thing you should do is note where the Emergency STOP button is located. It is usually on a pull cord that’s easy to grab a hold of. Last year I was in a gym in Lisbon when it sounded like an airplane was landed in the room. The woman had been walking on the treadmill and all of a sudden, the belt sped up to a very high speed, like a run-away train. Fortunately, she got off in time but it left her quite frightened.

Another important tip is to always look at the belt of the treadmill BEFORE you get on. Sometimes, the belt is still moving because it wasn’t turned off properly. I’ve seen people go flying through the air from stepping onto a moving belt! The good news is that it’s 100% avoidable if you’re paying attention. Basic common sense tells me that I shouldn’t have to mention this, but please wear comfortable walking shoes (no flip flops or sandals) when walking or running on a treadmill.

Exercise Bikes

The biggest mistake people make on exercise bikes is positioning the seat either too low or too high. During the rotation, your knees should come close to full extension—but not to the point where they lock out. Ask an instructor at your gym to help you find the right seat height.

Yoga

Believe it or not, you can get hurt doing Yoga. If you listen to your body, the benefits of doing Yoga far outweigh not doing it. Besides getting a really good instructor, do NOT compete with yourself or others in the class. My first Yoga class was painful—mentally and physically. I kept watching everyone else in the room and they were GOOD. I tried and tried to do the things they were doing until I realized it just wasn’t going to happen.

Also, pick a type of Yoga that suits your personality. Be gentle with yourself, do what you can and allow the improvements to come in their own time.

Strength Training

Strength training is one of the best things you can do to help yourself stay fit and healthy. However, if you are doing the exercises improperly, you may end up doing more harm than good. If you are new to strength training, it’s a good idea to get some initial instruction from a personal trainer at your gym. They can teach you proper form, speed of movement, and appropriate amounts of weight to use.

The most common mistakes made are: using too much weight; doing the exercise too fast; and exceeding the joint’s range of motion. With a little practice, you’ll learn what’s best for you. Remember, the stronger you are the less likely it is you’ll be injured!

Whatever form of exercise you choose, always listen to your body. Give it plenty of rest and when it is screaming NO at you, pay attention. When you ignore your own warning signs is when you succumb to injury.

Stay well!


Molly

“Originally published in GO, GlobalFit’s online healthy living newsletter.”  http://www.globalfit.com/gonewsletter/default.asp

2 Comments:

  • lynn Pecora
    March 20, 2011

    Molly, This is all so true! I believe knowing thy self is also very important. If you tend to carry stress in one part of your body more than another you need to stretch that area even more before and after exercise. Take the time, its well worth it. I know all of us have learned this the hard way at some time in our lives.

    • March 20, 2011

      Thanks Lynn. Sometimes we tend to do too much at the gym…maybe because we feel a little competitve. Always listen to your body and be kind to it. Stay well!!

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