Exercise injuries are common, but they’re certainly not inevitable. There are lots of things you can do to protect yourself while working out.
Whether you’re a new gym-goer or are looking to fine-tune your fitness routine, these ten tips will help you stay safe so you can reach your goals faster.
1. Start Slow
If you’re brand new to exercise or are coming back to the gym after a long break, it’s important to ease into training. Don’t overwhelm yourself with intense lifts or long cardio sessions — you’re just setting yourself up for potential injuries and burnout.
Instead, commit yourself to just 2-3 days per week, and remember that small, consistent efforts will yield better results than sporadic bursts of all-out training.
2. Work with a Professional
Hiring a personal trainer will not only give you the accountability you need to reach your goals faster, but it will also help you learn proper technique to avoid injuries.
Common exercises like squats, deadlifts, and plyometrics are easy to mess up, but a certified personal trainer will teach you the cues you need to know to do these moves safely.
3. Prevent Flare-ups of Old Injuries
If you have an old injury, be it a stiff knee, bad back, or recurring tennis elbow, it’s important for you to take steps to prevent flare-ups.
This includes using lighter weights as you build up strength, focusing on mobility to help you achieve a better range of motion, and wearing straps or braces that provide customizable compression and give you the support you need.
4. Warm Up Properly
A proper warm-up will include some light cardio to literally warm up the body and dynamic stretches to improve mobility and prime the muscles you’re about to work. Avoid going into a workout “cold,” and avoid static stretching, too, as it can loosen up the muscles too much and actually increase your risk of injury.
5. Add Variety
Doing the exact same workout every day for weeks at a time is a surefire way to find yourself in a fitness plateau.
If you’re doing the same movements consistently — especially with improper form — you could also be setting yourself up for long-term injuries. This is especially true when you’re training with heavy weights or doing plyometric exercises.
6. Don’t Dwell on the Past
If it’s been a long time since you’ve worked out, don’t let yourself get bogged down thinking about what you were once able to do. Instead of reminiscing on your old PRs, focus on building a solid foundation and making consistent improvements.
Remember, if you’re chasing your former personal bests after months or years away from the gym, you’re more likely to injure yourself.
7. Dress for Success
Wearing the right workout gear will help you move freely in the gym. It’ll also help you avoid tripping or rolling an ankle during your training session. Opt for comfortable clothing that isn’t too loose or too tight and wear shoes that provide plenty of support and traction to keep you from accidentally sliding on the gym floor.
8. Don’t Neglect Your Core
A strong core will help you in every aspect of your workout routine.
It will improve your stability and allow you to lift heavy weights without straining your lower back.
You’ll also have more endurance when you’re doing cardio, which can help you avoid falling into improper movements patterns that can cause ankle sprains and other injuries.
9. Know When to Rest
Give yourself plenty of time to catch up on sleep and let your muscles recover. Remember, it’s when you’re experiencing deep REM sleep that your body produces most of its growth hormone, which is essential for muscle repair.
It’s also important to prioritize sleep to avoid making mistakes and injuring yourself in the gym. Sleep deprivation seriously affects your coordination and increases your chances of getting hurt, especially when you’re doing intense exercise.
10. Eat Clean and Stay Hydrated
Finally, make sure your diet and hydration are also on point. Give yourself plenty of fuel so that you can perform your best during your workouts — this means eating lots of high-quality protein, vegetables, and healthy fats, as well as carbohydrates to aid in recovery.
If you’re starving yourself outside of the gym, you’re going to feel weaker and be more prone to feelings of lightheadedness and general weakness, which, in turn, can lead to injury. These risks increase when you’re also not drinking a sufficient amount of water. Shoot for half your body weight in ounces each day.
There you have it. Ten tips to help you stay safe while you train and get maximum results from your workouts! Be sure to keep these bits of advice in mind during your next gym session.