4 Ways to Avoid Exercise Injuries

You've finally gotten motivated to exercise.  You've bumped past that plateau.  You've taken it to the next level and...you've gotten injured.  Exercise injuries sideline too many players, but most can be avoided.  Read on for four ways to avoid exercise injuries and keep yourself in the game.

1. Take it easy.  You can't run the marathon on the first day of training. Whether you're learning a new sport or just getting started exercising go slow and steady to avoid overuse injuries like strains, ligament irritation and muscle pulls.

  • Set realistic goals and give your body time to adapt to new routines, activities and sports. If you're new to exercise, start out walking, not running. If you're already a walker, add increments of running, followed by more walking.
  • Follow the rule of ten - increase duration, distance or exertion by only 10% of your current level per week. For example, if you currently walk 30 minutes a day, increase your time only 3 minutes per week. If you run 15 miles per week, only add 1.5 miles the next week. Currently lifting 40 pounds? Add 4 pounds and wait a week for your next bump.

2. Stretch Before and After. Some fitness experts say no to pre-workout stretching. "Cold" muscles don't have as much flexibility as when they're warm and exercised and are more vulnerable to injury.  Be gentle before a workout and thorough after.  Post-workout stretching is key to avoiding injury and increasing flexibility.    The American Council on Fitness (ACE) recommends both pre and post-workout stretching and says it:

  • Decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion. . . [and} may slow the degeneration of the joints.
  • May reduce your risk of injury. A flexible muscle is less likely to become injured from a slightly extensive movement.
  • Helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains. Stretching the muscles will keep them loose and lessen a shortening and tightening effect that can lead to post-workout aches and pains.

3.  Not Too Heavy

  • Before you lift free weights or use weight machines, get an expert to show you the ropes. Learn proper form, how machines work and what weight is appropriate for you.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine says, "Don't use too much weight when you begin your program. Some muscle soreness 1-2 days after your workout is expected, but excessive soreness indicates you've trained too hard. "
  • Don't lift weights with the same muscle groups two days in a row.

4. No Weekend Warriors. Don't cram all your fitness into the weekend.  Emergency rooms are filled  with exercise injuries from people who did too much or for too long.  Back strain, tendonitis, knee and rotator cuff injuries are common complaints.  Exercise three to five times per week to avoid overuse injuries.

Before you take your workout to the next level, ask yourself if you're really ready for more?  Play it safe and use common sense to avoid exercise injuries.