As the New Year approaches, everyone starts to ramp up their workouts in an aim to get fit and toned before the holiday season. If you haven’t worked out for a while, or even if you’re the type to workout consistently, ignoring pain can put you at risk of overuse injuries.
It can be tricky to know which type of pain is normal and which is serious, particularly if you’re getting back into working out after a break. Often that first session back in the gym can leave us feeling a bit tender and sore as we reactivate muscles that haven't been used for a while. However, there is a difference between sore muscles and injury pain, which shouldn’t be ignored.
Overuse injuries are caused by repeated, prolonged motions or impact, and cause joints, muscles and bones to become inflamed or irritated. These are injuries like shin splints, knee problems, tendonitis, stress fractures, and if ignored they can become serious and limit your exercise for months.
Here are some key tips to safeguard yourself from these types of injuries, so you can continue to exercise and get fit:
Don’t over do it (know your limits)
For those who are just starting out or getting back into the habit of exercise, it can be tempting to go full throttle in order to see results faster. Especially in the New Year and you have set yourself some fitness resolutions. The trouble with pushing yourself too hard, is that you’re shocking the body. Your muscles and joints need time to work get used to extensive exercise again. Whilst you should push yourself at the gym to get results, make sure you are working within your own limits and allowing yourself some time to let your workouts get progressively harder, as you get fitter and stronger.
Always warm up, cool down and stretch
We’re all busy people, and it can be tempting to save yourself a few minutes and jump straight into your workout as soon as you get to the gym. But this is one of the most common ways that people end up hurting themselves. Working out without warming up means that your muscles will be stiff and you won’t have the flexibility you need to perform key movements- so you’re likely to tear a muscle or tendon.
Jump on the cross trainer or treadmill for 10 minutes and do some stretching before a workout. Your cool down is just as important as it signals to your body that your workout is over, and stretching after working out will mean you’ll have a greater range of motion next time, and be less sore. I include all warm-up and stretching routines in my F.I.T. programs.
The recommended daily water intake is approx 8 glasses, however you need even more water when you're working out. Staying hydrated is crucial and will help prevent cramps and dizziness, especially in the summer months. If you’ve ever ended up with a headache after a workout you probably didn’t hydrate enough, so concentrate on drinking before, during and after your workout. You can even make your own natural electrolyte drink with a glass of water, half a lemon squeezed and then a sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt.
Wear Appropriate Attire
It’s important to wear sports attire which fits correctly and isn’t worn out. This is especially true for our gym shoes, which we tend to put off replacing. This is a huge mistake since failing to replace shoes can lead to shin splints, sprains and blisters. It's also important to get a shoe that is designed to support your type of foot. A lot of sport shoe stores can do an analysis of how you walk and then recommend an appropriate shoe for the best support.
Don’t Ignore Pain
Often we associate pain with working out, and figure we can “push through it”. If you do find yourself sore after exercising, take a few moments to study the pain. Is it muscular? Do you have the same pain on both sides of your body? Do you know which exercise caused the pain?
While some muscle tenderness is normal, particularly after doing a weights session, you shouldn’t ever have sharp shooting pain. If you notice a pain which is getting steadily worse or only hurts when you do certain movements, rest, ice the location of the pain, and see a doctor or physiotherapist if you see no improvement after a couple of days.
Include Rest Days
There’s no need to be working out 7 days a week. In fact, our bodies need rest days to keep us healthy and to let our muscles grow after we’ve worked them at the gym. Failing to include rest days is a good way to end up with an overuse injury as you’re not giving your body enough time to heal. Take at least one to two days off a week and switch up your exercises for a mix of cardio and weights throughout the week.
Remember getting fit isn't just about a workout and building abs, it's also about keeping the body healthy and injury free.