Whether you've just signed up to the gym or have been going for years, injuries can happen to anyone. Sure, you can cause yourself an injury doing just about anything these days if you're not careful enough! As a qualified personal trainer and head coach at our Eat Run Lift studio, safety is always a priority for my clients. From warming up, to avoiding poor technique - here are my top 7 tips to avoid injury when exercising.
1. Warm Up, Stretch - and Activate!
There’s no point in warming up muscles that you’re not going to use, sadly I’ve seen this before – literally, someone was doing bicep curls as a warm up on leg day. Cold muscles are more likely to get injured, by increasing your body core temperature you will promote blood flow to working muscles. Activating your muscles prior to commencing an exercise (hello, donkey kicks!) will assist in loosening up tight muscles. Eg; your goal is to gain mass in your glutes - if you fail to activate these muscles prior to a deadlift you are more likely to compensate and use other muscles through your lower back, hamstrings and quads which can lead to injury. Cooling down and stretching your muscles for just a few minutes at the end of your session can go a long way in preventing soreness or strain.
Tip: Dynamic stretches and rowing are perfect ways to warm up. Include foam rolling at the end of your training and to your daily routine to help with recovery and improve future performance.
2. Ease Into a Program
Always ease into a program, especially if you are not used to the particular exercises. Most trainers will write a program following three phases – building the foundation, increasing muscle, firming/fat loss. Don’t assume that by jumping straight into an advanced training schedule you’re going to achieve the best results! You may be tempted to train really hard during your first week back in the gym, but the recovery might be a killer if you've pulled a muscle or torn a ligament.
Tip: Is your program not working for you? Try cross-training to prevent overuse of your muscles and help avoid hitting a plateau.
Don’t sacrifice form for a longer workout or to squeeze out more repetitions. When you are not using the correct technique to perform an exercise you can cause your body to become misaligned, placing your tendons, muscles and joints in positions that can potentially cause strains or tears. One of the reasons why you repeat a set of exercises is so that you can perform it more efficiently and subconsciously.
Tip: Unsure of an exercise? Ask for help! Most gyms will have a personal trainer available to give you a hot tip or two about that squat form.
4. Wear the Right Attire
If you have to question how long you’ve owned those shoes for, the answer will almost always be too long! There are a number of different shoes out there in the market – training shoes, walking shoes, running shoes… Having a pair specifically for training can give you both the stability of a lifting-specific shoes and lightweight flexibility of a cross-trainer for HIIT. Opt for a lightweight t-shirt or sweatshirt made from breathable material, and for your bottoms wear something flexible with an elasticated waistband. Make sure to invest in a supportive sports bra as well!
Tip: Functionality should be your top priority when it comes to choosing your training outfit.
5. Fuel Your Body
Want to be faster? Stronger? Leaner? Your diet plays a key role. Proper nutrition will help fuel your muscles, keep you better hydrated and increase the amount of fat you burn. It's not possible to build new muscle tissue or increase your energy levels without an adequate protein intake!
Tip: Check out our Get Lean Nutrition Guide for more information about getting the right nutrients for training and the all-important nutrient timing.
6. Know Your Limits
Listen to your body! If you’re tired, feeling fatigued, sick or ill-prepared you won’t have a good time during your training. Already facing an injury? Make sure to have the approval from your specialist (whether it’s your trainer, physiotherapist, chiropractor or general practitioner) before exercising.
Tip: Wanting to train but you’ve had a big day at work? Grab a foam roller for 15-30 minutes. You can thank me later.
7. Invest in a Personal Trainer
Especially if you are interested in strength training! Not only are personal trainers excellent for that extra accountability, they are there for your safety – number 1!! They can help you correct your technique and form, as well as help to push yourself without going to far to risk an injury.
Tip: Make sure to find a trainer you connect with – most trainers will have a specialty, whether it’s strength & conditioning, boxing, pre/post natal or training for triathalons.