Make no mistake – we are fully entrenched in the Holiday Season. Next up after all the shopping, meal prep, stress, and overeating, comes the dreaded New Year’s Resolution. The most common resolution, of course, is to exercise/lose weight/get in shape/etc. “This is the year!” Sound familiar?
As avid exercise enthusiasts, we’ve seen the gym-goers in January which start to dwindle in number by March or even February usually. Many people fizz out of their exercise commitment for one reason or another. An unfortunate culprit of exercise drop-outs is injuries. While motivation to recommit oneself to a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercising is admirable, it can also be risky.
Here are five tips to avoid injury at the gym and keep working on those New Year’s fitness goals:
1. Fitness vs. Health
There’s a difference between working out for fitness and working out for health. Most people work out for fitness because it’s a lot more fun than working on some of the key exercises we PTs use for restoring a person to musculoskeletal health. However, it’s vital to know the difference and to know that while many fitness programs like CrossFit or Boot Camps are attractive because people can quickly “feel the burn,” these one-size-fits-all programs may easily cause more harm to our joints, muscles, and tendons than they offer benefit.
Easier said than done. But many of us are sedentary and seated most of the day, so we all need to focus on stretching our shoulders, necks, low back, hips, knees, and ankle to improve or maintain the available range of motion we have in them to move and live in. The truth is, most injuries can be avoided by stretching our joints and muscles to maintain our freedom of movement.
3. Work in a pain-free range of motion
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an important one. It also relies on your ability to know your limits and to know the difference between pain, soreness, and fatigue. Regardless of what your friend, personal trainer, or person from the YouTube video may tell you about a certain exercise, know your body and know when and how to modify an exercise to make sure it can be done pain free. If you’re not sure how to modify it, check in with your PT – we are happy to help set you up for success!
4. Bench-press? Think again
Follow this guide for the safest chest and shoulder exercise. A prime example of my point in item #1 is the bench press. Sadly it’s become the most popular male weightlifting exercise, mostly stemming from high school. Walk into any gym in America and you’ll see why I’ve dubbed every Monday as “National Bench Press Day.” The bench is one of the worst exercises we can do for our health and our shoulders. It’s an exercise we can get away with in high school, but in our 30s and 40s, as our rotator cuff can accumulate more wear-and-tear, it’s not something we so easily tolerate. Same goes for the military press.
Here’s our list of safest-to-least-safe basic gym chest/shoulder weight training exercises:
1. (most safe) Push-ups: There’s no shortage of variation and
2. Incline bench with dumbbells
3. Incline bench with barbell
4. Flat bench with dumbbells
5. Military press with barbell (in front of head)
6. Flat bench with barbell
7. (Least Safe) Military press with barbell (behind head)
5. Walk. Walk. Walk.
Find time to walk every day. Last tip is to make time to walk at least 20 continuous minutes every day. The health benefits of regular daily walking are too high to list on this page. I consider daily walking as one of the examples of exercising for health. It’s paramount to find or make the time to make this regular because not only does it perfectly compliment the exercises for fitness we do, but it’s easier to stick with consistently and see regular health benefits from it as a result.
Here’s the point…
Follow these simple guidelines and don’t let an injury keep you from your fitness or health goals next year. It’s important to listen to your body. If you feel an injury starting to come on, consult with a physical therapist before you do any further damage. But don’t give up! You can live a healthier life without pain. We’re always happy to help! See you in 2019.