7 Tips for Avoiding Injuries While Working Out
While gym-going is mostly safe, that doesn’t mean people haven’t sustained numerous injuries ranging from mild to severe. Some statistics and data-driven studies prove this.
For example, every day, more than 10,000 people are treated in the ER for injuries due to exercising, weight training, and playing sports. A decades-long study from 1990 to 2007 found that more than 970,000 people were treated for injuries specific to weight-training. Finally, there are about 3.1 injuries for every 1,000 hours spent doing CrossFit.
So, it’s safe to say that avoiding injuries while working out is at the top of many athletes’ minds. An injury can cause significant setbacks or even long-term pain and discomfort. If you want to avoid paying a hospital bill the next time you stretch, lift weights, or do some cardio, you’re in the right place.
Keep reading for some of our top tips for avoiding various types of injuries. The gym doesn’t have to be a dangerous place. Here’s how to make it as smooth and enjoyable as possible—for years to come.
1. Don’t Skip Your Warm-Up
Regardless of what type of exercise you’re about to do—CrossFit, hiking, weight-lifting, HIIT—warming up is crucial to getting your body ready to accept the activity that’s coming. A dynamic warm-up gets those muscles ready to move, providing you with more range of motion and making your upcoming work-out less injurious.
Without a warm-up, you could be more susceptible to injuries and put more strain on your muscles. Conversely, warming up can improve your performance, start that necessary blood and oxygen flow, and even increase your flexibility.
Some warm-up routines to consider include:
- Dynamic warm-ups, such as doing the movements you’ll do later, but without weight and with regular movement
- Static stretches (aka the opposite of dynamic), which can lengthen and loosen up muscles
- Sport-specific warm-ups, such as body squats, lunges, half- or full plank, push-ups, etc.
If you’re in a time crunch, don’t worry. Warm-ups don’t have to be long! Take a minimum of 5-10 minutes to warm up, but increase that time depending on your workout intensity.
It’s worth skipping those strenuous exercises if you know you won’t have time to prepare your muscles for exercise properly. If you only have time for a 5-minute, simple warm-up, you may want to do lower impact exercise that day.
2. Similarly, Don’t Forget to Cool Down
Do you typically finish a work-out, wipe down the gym equipment, and then head straight home? If so, you could be doing your body more harm than good.
Cooling down is arguably just as important as warming up. When you work out, your blood pressure and heart rate naturally increase—so, post-exercise, you need to allow them an opportunity to ease back to normal. This gradual recovery is better than jumping right into errands, a meal, a drive, etc.
This point is especially true for athletes of high endurance. Doing so can help regulate blood flow.
It is worth mentioning that cooling down isn’t meant to reduce soreness or stiffness but rather slow the systems down and bring them back to a neutral level.
3. Good Form Is Key
Once you learn proper form, you’ll be able to spot bad form from a mile away. Mistakes with techniques are perhaps one of the biggest things to master for avoiding injuries. One lift with improper form can be extremely injurious.
Alignment is critical in all types of workouts; even a simple yoga class should be based on a strong foundation, focusing more on form and alignment than how deep your stretch can be. The importance of form increases with the amount of weight you’re lifting.
Forget reps—if you can’t do one rep in proper form, you’ll understand why attempting ten reps can be particularly dangerous. In addition to causing injury, an improper form won’t yield the results you’re in the gym for anyway. You’ll get better results and be less prone to injury once you bring your exercise down to its foundation.
If you’re unsure of how to do something the right way, ask! Chances are you have a weight-lifting buddy or a personal trainer at your local gym that would be happy to instruct you. If not, you can always videotape yourself and analyze your body position, comparing it to photos of the proper form online or in books.
4. Start Small and Light, Then Build Up
Like the warming up process, it’s important to take small steps when you first get to the gym or start your home workout.
Starting with light weights, or even using the body as a weight, is a way for your muscles to get ready to work out. You’re essentially lubing up the muscles, slowly building your heart rate, and allowing your body to enjoy the exercises without the strain of overworking.
Let’s say you’re doing leg day. Before you move into lifting heavy, try doing body squats and lunges. Gradually build up in weight—squat while holding five pounds, then ten, then fifteen, and more—so that you’re not accidentally overexerting yourself. You may not realize you can’t do something until it’s too late, and you’ve destroyed your back, meaning that even small weights aren’t possible.
Another way to practice this is by doing more reps than usual with lighter weights, rather than fewer reps with excessive weight.
5. Drink Plenty of Water While Exercising
Are you staying hydrated during your workout? If not, your body isn’t performing at its highest level, which could even lead to injury, cramps, dizziness, fatigue, and more. All these things are a recipe for potential pain or discomfort.
Good hydration during exercise—which includes before, during, and after a workout—has many benefits for the extreme or even moderate athlete. Water keeps your joints lubricated, your body temperature regulated, and gives you energy through the transportation of nutrients.
Some general guidelines for drinking water during exercising look like this:
- Anywhere from 17 to twenty ounces a couple of hours before a workout
- Up to 8 ounces during warm-up
- An additional 7 to ten ounces during your workout and at 10- to 20-minute intervals
- Eight ounces of water within the thirty minutes after finishing
Different types of exercise, environments, and body types affect how much water you should be drinking. It’s important to know the signs of dehydration (such as cramps, lack of sweating, or lightheadedness), as being familiar with them could alert you to needing more water.
6. Mix up Your Routine, AKA Cross-Train
You’ve landed on this article in an attempt to learn how to avoid injury. Well, using different workout equipment, trying different styles of working out, and using different muscle groups—aka cross-training—is a fantastic way to do so!
Cross-training allows you to train different muscles, which all work harmoniously together, supporting one another. If you’ve noticed that one muscle group is particularly stressed, you can give it a break while you focus/train another. Doing this improves your overall fitness levels, abilities, and body conditioning.
It also reduces your odds of feeling bored and opens up more opportunities for working out. Say a personal training group takes up your go-to gym equipment. No worries! Just train something else instead.
7. Make Recovery a Priority
Let’s say you already practice the other tips on this list—you drink tons of water, have a good foundation for your exercises, cross-train often, and are great at warm-ups. You’re a huge exercise fiend, and you love to get that heart rate up and blood flowing. But, since you’re such a dedicated athlete, you may be skipping an important step: rest and recovery.
You’re not alone in this! Many athletes overlook this essential factor in favor of ‘no days off’ or ‘no pain, no gain.’ However, this line of thinking makes you injury-prone; your body needs ample time to repair and rebuild itself.
Exercise is obviously taxing to your muscular system, nervous system, and even your immune system. When you take days off or recover through massage, yin yoga classes, mediation, etc., you’re allowing your body the time it needs to recover.
This recovery process doesn’t mean you’re lazy; it means you care about the longevity of your health and wellness.
Avoiding Injuries Is Possible Using These Tried-And-True Tips
The next time you’re in the gym, don’t rush!
Spend some time warming up, focusing on form, and making your recovery process just as much a priority as the ‘gains’ part. The better you pay attention to avoiding injuries, the longer your gym-going experience will be—earning you major, well-deserved self-confidence over time. That’s not to mention the improved range of motion, mental clarity, and the several other benefits that come with working out!
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Click here to start shopping our selection, and please reach out with any questions or concerns. Happy lifting!