Regular exercise has many benefits as we all know. However, to enjoy your workouts without unnecessary blood, sweat and tears, it can be important to follow a few simple guidelines. The aim of the game is improved health not a trip to the emergency rooms. These handy hints for preventing injuries while exercising could save you a whole world of pain:
* Warm up. Warming up is one of the most vital components to any workout or physical activity. 5 minutes of gentle walking or slow cycling is ideal for loosening up the muscles and getting the heart and lungs ready for action. Warming up also helps to dramatically reduce the chances of straining muscles.
* Start slow. Yep, you want to be able to run 10 miles by the weekend. Well, that isn’t going to happen. Your muscles have memory, so start slow and you will be able to get back to where you were in college or high school reasonably quickly. Run 5 miles the first day and you probably won’t be going anywhere again for quite some time. (Assuming you don’t give yourself a heart attack.) Build up by 5 or 10 minutes daily until you reach your goals.
* Cool down. Cooling down is just as important as warming up. A 5 minute slow walk or ride at the end of your workout is great for allowing the lactic acid that has built up in your muscles to be released slowly. Adequate cooling down will help prevent those sore muscles tomorrow.
* Stretches. Stretching is great for improving your flexibility. Stretching can be done after your warm up or following the cool down while your muscles are still warm. Stretches should always be held and never bounced. Beware of overstretching.
* Listen to your Body. You know your body best. If you are feeling like you are coming down with the flu, give your body the day off. If you feel you are going to collapse halfway through your workout, stop. Any severe pain or extreme breathlessness or chest pain requires an immediate visit to the doctor. There is a great difference between pushing yourself and killing yourself in the effort.
* Aches and Pains. It is normal to feel a bit sore and tight when you first start to exercise. However, severe pain should not be ignored. If you are still sore after 2-3 days you will need to see your doctor or physio. If you should experience severe pain while working out you should stop immediately and see your doctor asap.
* Equipment. A relatively simple way to avoid injuries is to ensure you are working out with the right gear. The best running shoes will not only support your feet and ankles but provide insulation from jarring while walking or running on firm surfaces. Helmets should be worn when riding bikes outdoors.
* Keep your eyes open. When walking, biking, and especially jogging and running, it is important to keep your eyes on the track, path, or road. Unexpected obstacles and holes have been the ruin of many athletes. Keep an eye out for overhanging branches as well. If you are exercising outdoors at night time it is safer to stick to well lit public areas, and better yet to exercise with a friend.
* Mix it up. Many workout injuries are caused from overusing the same muscle groups. Mixing it up, or cross-training, can be a great way to avoid this. Choose several activities that you enjoy and mix them around. For example, you may swim, walk and ride a bike, so alternate all three each week. This is also a great way to alleviate exercise boredom.
* Rest. All this working out necessitates a rest every once in a while. Your muscles can only repair themselves when resting. If you do not allow your body to recover that small niggle will eventually become a full blown injury that will sideline you for weeks or sometimes months. A day of rest each week will also help prevent burnout and fatigue.
* Doctor’s clearance. The best way to prevent injuries is to ensure that you are actually okay to exercise in the first place. Anyone with pre-existing conditions, hasn’t exercised in a while, or is carrying a few extra pounds, should get a check up before lacing up those running shoes.
Working out should be fun and all about improving your fitness levels. Exercise injuries can not only be painful but put a real dent in your fitness campaign. Take it steady, warm up, cool down, and wear the appropriate gear to give yourself the best chance of minimizing injuries.