Whether you’re just starting a new routine or maintaining top shape these universal prevention tips can spare you from unnecessary sports and fitness related injuries.
Of course if you’re new to strength training, make sure that you talk to a professional first about your general fitness and health. If you can afford it, we recommend that you have at least a couple of sessions with a personal trainer to show you proper form, give you helpful guidance, and answer any questions you may have. You can also take classes or watch videos for proper form techniques.
To maximize your workout and help prevent injury, follow these guidelines:
- Align your body correctly. If you’re standing, your feet should be shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent.
- Mind your movements. Your movements should be slow and controlled. You aren’t racing. Count to four, pause, and then return to your starting position.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Your muscles need oxygen, so don’t hold your breath. Breathe in at the beginning of the lift and exhale gently through your mouth during the release of each weight.
- Especially in the beginning, be careful not to over train. No pain no gain is not the motto for someone just starting an exercise program—you can damage your muscles and joints if you overdo it. A muscle injury in your first week of strength training can bum you out in no time, making it harder to get back in the gym and back on track. We want you to succeed, so stick to the plan.
Overtraining not only causes muscle injury, but can also make you lose your edge because if you’ve been progressively working out according to a routine and you get injured, it takes time to recover from your injury. During that time off, you’ll slowly begin to lose what you’ve gained. In essence you’ll have to start not where you left off, but farther behind.
- When you stretch, reach until you feel a bit of tension and hold it for 10 to 15 seconds. Slowly ease into the stretch to give your muscles time to adjust. Never bounce or hold the stretch until you feel pain.
Recognizing when you need to back off
You may be pushing too hard. Here are some signs to look for to indicate you’re overdoing it:
- Your performance goes down while your effort goes up
- You start losing body weight
- You start getting infections
- You’re constantly tired
- Your heart rate is elevated and you have an unpleasant burning sensation in your muscles
- You have difficulty sleeping
- You’ve lost your appetite
- You feel nauseous
If you think you’re overworking your muscles because you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, stop working out and see your doctor.
Body transformation occurs by simultaneously gaining muscle through weight training and losing fat through aerobics and diet. Particularly if you’re overweight, begin weight training as part of your doctor-approved routine today. Many people falsely believe that adding weight training will either make you look heavier or impede your weight loss.
Here’s the truth: Weight training helps promote weight loss because muscle mass increases your metabolic rate, which directly aids in fat loss. For every pound of muscle you add, your body can burn 30 to 50 more calories a day at rest. Those burned calories are more likely to come from fat reserves, which is really the whole point if your goal is to lose body fat.
Preventing and Treating Muscle-Related Injury
Even the best-trained athletes get hurt. While we’re not encouraging you to injure yourself, you may sustain a sprain or strain from time to time. When it happens, you need to treat the injury properly and not make it worse by continuing to push ahead.
If you injure yourself or experience persistent pain or swelling and your symptoms don’t improve within a day or two, seek proper medical attention.
Joint aches and pains
You may feel a little sore all over if you’re a workout newbie. Your body experiences many changes as it adjusts to the new demands you’re placing on it so be gentle if you’re sore the first couple of weeks. It’s better to ease up than to quit.
If you continue to feel pain in your joints during a particular exercise while at the gym, stop and ask a fitness instructor for help.
Chances are you may not be in proper form. If your form is fine and you still feel joint pain, skip that exercise for now. Ask the fitness instructor for an alternative exercise or for a suggestions for warming up the joints to reduce the stress. If an alternate exercise also causes pain to that particular joint, stop exercising the joint until you can speak with a medical professional.
Very often the cause of joint pain is inflammation of the tendons, called tendonitis, or other soft and connective tissue. (Tendons connect muscle to bone.) Ice therapy for 15 minutes three to four times a day can reduce inflammation.
Muscle strains and pulls
If you pull or strain your muscle, it’s going to hurt pretty badly because you’re stretching your muscle fibers—like a rubber band—beyond their limits and they tear. Many actions can lead to muscle pulls, but the painful results are all the same.
Sometimes when you have a severe pulled muscle or injury, you many notice that your urine is brown. This happens due to the excretion of the protein myoglobin that’s released when the muscle is damaged. Other symptoms are swelling of the muscles a day or two after the injury, stiffness, and of course pain.
To treat muscle pulls, use the RICE method:
- Relative rest: Whatever you were doing to cause the muscle pull—stop! You won’t feel much like doing that again any time soon anyway. All you need right now is some good, old-fashioned time for the muscle to heal. Several days to several weeks isn’t an unusual timeframe, depending on how may muscle fibers you tore.
- Ice: Apply a bag of ice for 15-minute intervals several times a day. This step reduces the swelling and pooling of fluids from leaky muscle cells and blood vessels.
- Compression: Use and elastic bandage for compression to lessen the swelling and constrict the injured blood vessels.
- Elevation: Let gravity do some of the work for you by keeping your muscle elevated above your heart. This step helps keep fluids from pooling in the injured area, keeps swelling down, and helps plasma and fluids return to your heart.
Use the RICE method for the first 12 hours after you pull a muscle because this timeframe is when most of the swelling occurs. After swelling is under control, apply heat to increase blood flow and promote healing.
Dealing with a sprain
Although people often use the terms interchangeably, sprains and strains are two different things. A strain is an injury to a muscle; a sprain is an injury to a ligament that attaches bone to bone.
Sprains can result in a lot of swelling. A severe sprain may tear the ligament completely, and the joint will be swollen and discolored, and unable to bear weight. You need to see your doctor to distinguish among a severe sprain, strain, or fracture.
Treatment for sprains is similar to treatment for strains or pulls: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
*Agin, B., & Perkins, S. (2008). Healthy aging for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Pub.
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About Priority You MD
Priority You MD provides personalized, integrative healthcare for general wellness, anti-aging, athletic performance and weight management as well as more complex medical issues. In addition, our facility also provides aesthetic services and fitness training. Combining diet, nutrition and exercise with evidence based medicine and preventative therapies, our goal is to help our patients achieve and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
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