Exercise isn’t rocket science. It’s pretty simple, really. Stay active every day. Get your heart rate up. Get out and move. However, as the exercise industry grows, so does the rehabilitation industry. People get injured from exercise. Here are some reasons why.
#1 Lifting too much. Know what muscle or muscles you’re trying to strengthen and lift enough weight to work it or them. If you want to strengthen your biceps for example, know that they attach from the elbow pit up to the shoulder joint. Look at them on an anatomy chart. If you feel other muscles in your neck, back or shoulder contracting while strengthening your biceps, then you’re lifting too much weight. Plain and simple.
This can be applied to every muscle in the body. Respect your muscles, learn where they “live” and focus on them when your asking them to resist weight.
#2 Warming up wrong or not at all. Some people don’t do it, many people do it incorrectly.
Why warm up? The same reason people date before they get married. The same reason you have an appetizer before dinner. Especially if you just got out of bed or sat at a desk all day, your body can use some warning before you require it to perform. Get the blood flowing and allow the muscles time to prepare for the work to come.
How to warm up? Well, what is the goal of your exercise routine today? Do something a little less intense than that to get ready. If you’re going to run or “do cardio”, do some hip circles, marching, arm circles and torso rotations first. Do them actively and gently. If you’re going to work your biceps, do some wrist and shoulder circles first. 5-10 will do.
Don’t stretch to warm up. Stretching can shut down your muscles and cause them to relax. If you will be actively moving in your workout, then actively move to prepare for it.
Shoulder, wrist, hip and ankle circles are a good fall back if you’re not sure what to do.
#3 Stretching too much. “No pain no gain” is a saying of the past. It’s appropriate for those who are competing in professional sports. For the rest of us who are trying to stay fit, we need to be more gentle and respectful of our bodies. If the stretch feels good it probably is. If it feels bad, it’s probably not good for you. If your body is sending a pain signal, there is a reason. Back off and be more gentle.
Don’t force yourself to eat more than your stomach can hold, don’t force your spouse to see a movie they hate and don’t force your muscles to stretch if it’s painful. Got it?
#4 Not cross-training. “Variety is the spice of life” and also a good mindset for exercise. Mix up your running routine by swimming once a week. Inter-change weight lifting with dance or yoga once a week. Change your routine regularly to keep your body guessing and adapting. Your body will get used to the “same old-same old” and it won’t have an effect anymore. The joints may get injured when over-used the same way repeatedly, another good reason to mix it up.
#5 Doing Too Much. Ideally, exercise energizes you, elevates your mood and makes you feel good. If it’s not doing that, something is wrong. See our article about over-exercising if you think this might be you.
Some people don’t do enough to see results and others do too much. Find the happy medium. Exercise until you feel good and stop when it begins to make you feel exhausted, grouchy or painful. Exercise requires effort, but should lead to good feelings afterwards.
The take home message is to listen to your body. Be aware of the signals it’s sending and respect them. Often times we distract ourselves while exercising, when the opposite is needed. Pay attention to what you’re doing and it will pay off in the long run. Keep up the good work!
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