With work, family and a social life it can be challenging to find the time to exercise. Add a nagging injury to that list and you have a perfect storm that sinks your hopes of sticking to a regular workout routine. Unfortunately, many of us gain these painful stumbling blocks on the road to better health at the very place we go to get fitter: the gym. Here are three tips - for before, during, and after your workout - that will make sure your next trip to the gym is injury-free.
Before You Start
Take ten minutes to break a sweat before you begin your workout. "Ride a stationary bike or do something gentle to raise the core temperature, get the heart rate up and get those joints lubricated," says Greg Werner, MS, CSCS, ACSM-HFI, the Director of Strength and Conditioning at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. "The muscles and tendons tend to be a little more plastic, so you want to increase the elasticity of them by the heat."
During the Workout
Pain is your main compass of determining whether you are entering injurious territory. While that may sound ridiculously obvious, Werner assures it is not. "People who were athletes at one time tend to try to jump in where they left off," says Werner. This leads to doing too much too soon, and potentially straining a muscle. If you feel any joint pain, back off immediately. And when you are starting off, says Werner, there is no need for excessive pain in muscles or lactate pain (what is known as "the burn").
The Cool Down
"After a workout is when you want to stretch," advises Werner. "That is when the muscle is flushed with blood and warmed up, and when you will see the greatest gains in range of motion." These gains in flexibility will help decrease your chances of future injury.
Extra! Throughout the Day
Don't forget to drink plenty of water during the day and at least eight ounces of water before a workout. Proper hydration helps keep you cool and improves your overall joint health.