It’s well known that exercise of all types helps to keep the doctor away – unless you injure yourself in the process. Muscle strains, tendon ruptures, and ligament sprains can happen to anyone, at any age, no matter how fit you are, so it’s important to make the right moves to help prevent muscle injury. Follow these tips to stay in shape and out of the doctor’s office.
Warm Up First
Cold muscles are less pliable and prone to tearing, so it’s recommended to increase your blood flow by lightly accelerating your heart rate before you even attempt to touch your toes or jump into that run. Pre-workout warmups may add a little time to your routine but require nowhere near the two, three, or up to ten weeks it takes to heal torn muscles or a sprained ligament. A proper workout warmup can be as robust as a 30-minute yoga class or as quick as a 10-minute walk on the treadmill.
Stretch Before and After Working Out
Whether you are just beginning your wellness journey or you’re already a fitness pro, stretching should come as no surprise as it pertains to the flexibility of the ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, skin, and muscles. You may also know stretching decreases the risk of gym injuries while increasing the supply of blood and nutrients to your joints. But what may be news is the difference in stretch techniques and when to perform each during your workout routine.
Dynamic Stretching Before Working Out
Active and dynamic stretches are moving stretches which are highly recommended before a workout, especially if you are planning to perform any strength training. Dynamic stretching increases blood flow to your muscles and prepares them for exercise. It also helps increase your body temperature, warms up tissues, and elevates the heart rate, so that you don’t go immediately from the cold and resting state to vigorous jump squats, running, or other cardio-intensive exercises.
Static Stretching After Working Out
Although dynamic stretching is just as effective in preventing soreness and muscle injury when performed before and after a rigorous workout, static stretching, or stretching where you hold a pose for 10 to 30 seconds, also helps cool you down and transition muscles, joints, and the nervous system back to a resting state. Static stretching before exercise can weaken performance, such as sprint speed, in studies, and the most likely reason is that holding the stretch tires out your muscles.
Pay Attention to your Most Restricted Areas
To avoid injuring problem spots, stretching those areas before and after your routine is always a good idea. For example, if you’re prone to hamstring tendonitis or a stiff neck, make sure you hit them with every cool down. To prevent post-workout soreness and lactic build-up, use a foam roller to help your body bounce back faster by stimulating the healing process. The sooner oxygenated blood reaches your muscles, the sooner your body’s lymphatic system will flush the lactic acid away.
Want to learn more stretch techniques that help prevent injury to specific muscles and problem areas? EōS locations offer a variety of dedicated mobility classes. See all the available mobility classes at EōS Fitness.
Switch it Up
Overuse injuries are real and develop when your muscles get used to the same moves if performed repeatedly. Tack on poor form or an emphasis on the muscle groups when repeating an action, painful inconveniences such as tendonitis or stress fractures occur due to the repetitive trauma.
Changing up your exercises can benefit your training instead of hurting it. By switching up your routine, exploring a new class, or rotating the machines you use, you will engage and strengthen different muscles, giving you a better overall workout, improving your strength, and helping prevent gym injuries.
Introduce Yoga to your Routine
Blending more than a few of the previously mentioned tips to prevent muscle injury, yoga is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your mind-body connection. Beyond the physical, yoga helps put you in a positive and empowered mindset, which may help you get more out of your regular workout. Here are two physical reasons yoga can enhance any routine:
Yoga Eases Muscles In or Out of Workout Mode
If you have trouble getting started on your workout, yoga can be an excellent bridge. If you love the idea of a gentle cool down that could help ease soreness, yoga after your workout is a better option.
Yoga Combines Warming Up & Dynamic Stretching
A pre-workout yoga flow moves the body through a cycle of dynamic stretches that will gradually lift your heart rate, start moving blood through your system, and get you primed for any routine.
Want to learn more about how the benefits of yoga can help prevent gym injuries and enhance your personal fitness journey? EōS Fitness offers a variety of different yoga classes and yoga-inspired classes at all levels. Take a class before or after your workout, or just come for yoga.
Practice Correct Form
Improper technique can take its toll on your body. Especially in weightlifting, bad form can cause serious injuries that will delay your fitness goals. If you’re beginning a new workout regimen, take the time to learn proper form. Preventing muscle injury can be as simple as asking an EōS staffer to help reposition the seat on a weight machine or as involved as asking a professional trainer at your gym to watch your technique. They’re the experts and would be glad to give you a few pointers. Whatever you do, don’t just mimic the form or step of the person next to you. Take things slowly, learn how to execute the moves correctly, and you’ll move forward on the pain-free path to results.
Training while insufficiently hydrated can lead to gym injuries. Consuming enough water helps regulate your body temperature, lubricate your joints, and transport nutrients that give you energy and keep you alert and focused. Try to fit in 17-20 ounces of water about two to three hours before a workout, followed by sips every 15 minutes or so during exercise. Follow up with another 16 ounces within two hours of finishing to replace lost fluids.
Wear the Right Gear
Believe it or not, improperly dressing for a sport or activity is one of the most common causes of injury. This includes wearing ill-fitting or the incorrect shoes for your chosen sport and wearing loose or baggy clothing that can get caught on equipment and cause you to trip.
If the Shoe Fits
Because plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, and other injuries are common among runners, reducing the impact on joints and tissues with a properly cushioned shoe that supports the entire foot is key. However, never wear running shoes while weightlifting. Too much cushion can throw you off balance. Instead, opt for sneakers that keep you close to the ground and stable in your step when lifting weights.
Take Rest Days
When you’re on your way to achieving your fitness goals, taking a day or two away from your routine may seem counterproductive. But rest days are actually the exact opposite and help prevent gym injuries. Rest days and active recovery days allow your body to recharge and your muscles to rebuild, contributing to increased strength and growth. One full rest day every three to five workout days is generally recommended. Take more time off if you’re experiencing excessive soreness or pain or feel fatigued. You’re better off taking an extra day to rest now than risking training while overtired and injuring yourself.
Listen to your Body and Assess
While it’s ok to “feel the burn” when working out, pain is not gain; pain is a sign that you’re doing something wrong or you’re doing something your muscles aren’t ready for yet. Early detection is one of the most effective ways to prevent gym injuries. If you feel pulling sensations, pinching, pain, or aches, stop immediately and evaluate what you did to cause the pain. Either adjust your form or take a rest. Ease up rather than push through an exercise or class to avoid further muscle injury.
If you need more tips on how to avoid injury while working out, join EōS Fitness now and receive a Complimentary Welcome Workout with a Personal Trainer.