As the new year kicks off, many people will find themselves joining (or re-joining) a gym as part of their new year’s resolutions, seeking to improve their health and well-being. While the gym can provide an ideal environment for developing fitness with plenty of equipment and activities to choose from, it is important to take a certain number of precautions when starting any new workout to avoid injury.
Too often our commendable January self-improvement goals can often be derailed by avoidable exercise-induced injuries and aches and pains. To ensure a safe and effective fitness journey, consider these precautions when stepping into the gym environment.
1. Start Slow and Progress Gradually
Resist the temptation to jump into intense workouts immediately – people often make the mistake of progressing too rapidly whether it be increasing weight, duration, reps or exercise complexity resulting in aching joints or even injury. The body needs time to adapt to the new stimulus. Ease into your fitness routine with low-impact exercises and gradually increase intensity which will allow your body to acclimate, reducing the likelihood of strain or injury.
2. Learn Proper Form
If in doubt, get advice from an expert! Correct form is crucial for preventing injuries and maximizing the benefits of your workout, especially with weighted exercises. Consider working with a certified personal trainer who can guide you through proper technique for each exercise to reduce the likelihood of unnecessary strain on joints and muscles.
3. Warm-Up and Cool Down
Take the time to warm up before jumping into your workout and cool down afterward. A proper warm-up increases blood flow to muscles, preparing them for activity, and increases synovial fluid in the joints to improve lubrication and reduce stiffness, while a cool-down helps prevent stiffness and promotes flexibility. As a general rule of thumb, your warm-up should consist of dynamic stretches, a couple lightweight practice sets of your chosen exercise(s) and a possible 5-10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise such as the cross trainer or stationary bike. Static stretches (holding the stretch for time) are best kept for your cool down to help with mobility and reduce post-workout stiffness.
4. Stay Hydrated and Well Fed
Eating right and drinking enough water, though seemingly obvious, is a key component of any fitness journey. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramping and fatigue and can slow recovery while inadequate nutrition can affect recovery, muscle growth and energy. Remember to stay well hydrated not just at the gym but also at home and in the workplace, and consult a nutritionist if you are unsure of how to go about building a balanced, nutritious diet that is aligned to your fitness goals.
5. Allow for Adequate Rest
Adequate rest time between workouts is important for a sustainable and effective fitness routine. Your goal should be for your workouts to become a long-term habit rather than a 3 month fad, and a big part of achieving that is planning in sufficient recovery time. It’s during rest periods that the body undergoes crucial repair and recovery processes, replenishes energy stores and repairs microscopic muscle damage (which causes DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness) incurred during exercise. Failing to allow sufficient rest can lead to fatigue, increased risk of injury, and may actually slow your progress. Embrace rest days as an integral part of your fitness plan, promoting overall well-being and preventing burnout.
6. Remember that your body can do more than just flexion/extension!
Designing a gym workout that engages your joints in multiple directions is necessary for comprehensive strength, flexibility, and joint health. Incorporating exercises that move joints through various planes of motion ensures that all muscle groups surrounding a joint are strengthened and further promotes joint stability and resilience. By incorporating a diverse range of movements—such as lateral, rotational, and forward/backward motions—you will develop a more well-rounded fitness routine that supports long-term joint health and overall functional fitness.
If you are worried about the suitability of a particular exercise or workout for your condition, our chiropractors and sports therapists are here to help and will happily provide advice during your next session. Sometimes even the best laid plans can go awry and if a new injury does occur, we are available to assist with a range of treatment options.
By following these simple guidelines, you can more safely embark on your fitness journey and pursue your health goals with confidence!
If you have any questions about the topics raised above you can contact us for advice at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: The information provided above is intended as general guidance and does not constitute medical advice. Always consult a suitably qualified healthcare practitioner if you have any of the symptoms or conditions described above.