We all know that injuries are no fun. If you’ve been active for any significant length of time, whether it’s participating in sports, outdoor activities, or just exercise at your local gym, you probably have experienced an injury in some capacity.
How to avoid getting injured
How does one avoid the pulled muscles and overused tendons of the fitness world?
It’s actually pretty easy (but often overlooked). A proper warm up can do wonders for injury prevention, while simultaneously preparing your body to perform exercises better.
When I say warm up, I don’t mean hopping on a bike or treadmill for 2 minutes.
Although that’s a good start, there are a few other elements that should be included before we get to the real workout. A good warm up should last anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes, depending on the intensity level and types of exercises you plan on doing.
Light cardiovascular exercise is a good place to get started. It gets your heart rate up and increases the body’s core temperature, which in turn will help loosen up your muscles so they will be better suited for exercise. I’d recommend spending 6-10 minutes here.
Once you’ve finish with the cardio, it’s best to run through some light-intensity exercises that are more specific to your actual workout. If you’re going to be working your lower body, start out with a few easy squats. For the upper body, do a few reps with very light resistance first.
The idea here is to increase blood flow to those specific muscle groups, preparing them for more intense bouts of exertion. This also gives you a chance to check in with your form and technique, which is always a good thing to review.
Remember, bad form = increased risk of injury.
The last piece of a good warm up is flexibility. Flexibility should be incorporated frequently in any lifestyle, but it’s helpful to get a little stretching in before a workout. It helps to further loosen the muscles and allow for a greater range of motion during exercise.
Most of us are familiar with using static stretching techniques – you move a joint to the end of its range of motion and hold it there for a duration of time (think your basic sit and reach). Although this type of stretching is very beneficial for improving a joint’s range of motion, some research has shown that static stretching can actually hinder your performance during exercise at higher intensities.
Instead, try introducing some dynamic flexibility exercises to your warm up. Dynamic flexibility involves moving or swinging a joint and muscles through its entire range of motion, often repeatedly. Arm swings or circles, forward and lateral lunges, and torso twists are just a few examples of dynamic flexibility that will loosen up most of the muscles in your upper and lower extremities.
After you’ve completed your flexibility, your body is all set for a serious workout! Give it a try, and always feel free to ask myself, Sam, or Trish about any suggestions or tips for warming up properly.