With the start of a new year, it's the perfect time to jump start a fitness routine. The benefits of exercise are no secret as health and fitness related goals are some of the most common resolutions every year. They also are some of the hardest to keep if an injury derails progress.
Overuse injuries like sprains, strains and stress fractures are some common barriers when our bodies aren't ready for the intensity of a new exercise regimen.
Here are some tips to prevent injuries and keep your fitness New Year's Resolutions on track.
Identify Activities You Enjoy
An active lifestyle doesn't have to be stressful or something to dread. There is not one type of exercise that works for every person, so find an activity that you'll be able to enjoy for the long haul. Don't be afraid to try something new for your fitness resolution, whether it be an exercise class or a brisk walk outside. Participating in a greater variety of exercise will work different muscle groups, prevent boredom, and give the body a chance to recover.
Ask For Help On Your Fitness Resolution
The gym can be an intimidating place if you're inexperienced with weight machines or cardio equipment. Don't be afraid to ask gym staff or a healthcare professional for help if you're unsure about your form or how to properly use a piece of equipment. Performing exercises with correct technique is crucial to avoiding injuries.
Slow and steady wins the race, especially if you're starting a new exercise program. You'll be able to progress frequency, duration and intensity as your fitness improves, but don’t advance them all at the same time. Stress fractures and muscle strains occur when there is too much stress placed on the body too quickly. So forget the "no pain, no gain" rule of thumb and listen to your body with any aches and pains.
Warm-Up And Cool Down
Spending 5 to10 minutes on a bike or a brisk walk are good ways of preparing the body for more intense exercise. With the increased blood flow to muscles, range of motion and elasticity of muscle fibers are improved and decrease the chances of a strain injury. Don't forget to spend a few minutes stretching muscles after a workout to decrease soreness and increase flexibility.
Some people prefer a more proactive approach to preventing injuries, and there is a tool designed specifically for that purpose called the Functional Movement Screen. Utilized by many physical therapists, athletic trainers and other healthcare professionals, the Functional Movement Screen is a series of seven basic movements and can help identify muscle imbalances and deficiencies that lead to injury.
By Jenn Walters
Lead Athletic Trainer, Franciscan Health Lafayette East/YMCA