Getting Back to the Gym this New Year?
How to Stay Injury Free
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get yourself to the gym, you’re not alone. Gyms observe a 33 percent spike in activity every January.
Whether you are dusting off your membership card and getting back to the gym or signing up for a new membership, Dr. Arun Ramappa, Chief of Sports Medicine & Shoulder Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has some advice for you.
“People who are beginning workout regimens oftentimes increase weight, mileage, and intensity before their bodies are ready,” Dr. Ramappa says. “This abrupt increase in physical stress will likely lead to injuries.”
Some of the common injuries doctors see include:
A sign of runner's knee is pain around the kneecap. It is typically caused from running too many miles too soon while not allowing enough time between workouts for the muscles and joints to recover. Runner’s knee can also be caused from activities that require squatting, walking, and jumping.
Lifting overhead with weight that is too heavy, while not maintaining proper form, is common and can lead to injury. It’s important to warm up the shoulders prior to lifting heavy weights and stretch as much as possible after the workout.
Pull-ups are a common cause of elbow pain. The pain is typically a symptom of tendonitis from doing to many repetitions too soon in a workout regimen. Our sports medicine physicians recommend conducting as many variations of the pull-up as possible. (A trainer in your gym should be able to help with suggestions.) A conservative approach to repetitions and varying the type of pull-up will help prevent tendonitis-type injuries in the elbows.
Wearing old and worn out shoes while running long distances in the first few weeks of a new routine can hurt your feet. With Plantar Fasciitis, pain is felt when you take the first steps after getting out of bed or sitting for a long time, and your feet become swollen. Rest your feet and pick a pair of shoes that fit well and offer the support your feet need.
Here are some easy ways to prevent injuries at the gym:
Warm up and cool down
A warm-up gets your body ready for exercise. It gradually increases your heart rate and loosens your muscles and joints.
“Muscles and joints need to stretch and warm up prior to exercising,” explains Dr. Ramappa. “This is important so that they can function in a full range of motion and help absorb the impacts of the exercise.”
A cool-down is just as important. Walking for five to seven minutes after you work out will slowly bring your heart rate back to normal.
Stretching increases flexibility and helps the recovery process.
Start your new exercise regimen slowly. With every workout, your fitness level increases and you will be able to challenge yourself more over time.
Know your trouble spots
Make sure you pick the workout that works for you. For instance, you should seek another exercise if running causes pain in your knees. Alternatives to running include swimming, elliptical, spin bikes and row machines. These exercises limit the impact on joints while offering the same benefits as running. A personal trainer at the gym can guide you.
Our body is mostly comprised of water, therefore hydration before, during, and after your workout is very important. Hydration assists body temperature control, blood pressure, and helps maintain an active metabolism.
Take at least a day or two off each week. Allow your body to rest and recover before your next workout.
Typically, older people require more recovery time between workouts than younger people. It’s important to listen to your body and take a day of rest when you feel the need. Look for signs and symptoms of overtraining — mental fatigue, excessive soreness, and underperforming during exercise. Recovery time is as important as the workout itself and should be considered when planning a workout routine.
In reality, workout injuries can happen to anyone — a rookie or a regular. One reason for injuries at the gym is the equipment: make sure you understand how the machine works prior to use.
No matter how careful you are, injuries can still happen. So, if you injure yourself, remember RICE:
- Rest by staying off the injured body part
- Ice to control swelling
- Compress using an elastic bandage applied snugly, but loose enough so there is no pain
- Elevate the injured body part
Keep these tips in mind to help prevent injuries if you have resolved to get into better shape this year. Should an injury persist or if you have any questions or concerns, we invite you to schedule an appointment with one of our Sports Medicine clinicians at BIDMC.
Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care and before starting any exercise program, consult your doctor.
Posted January 2014