How to Increase Exercise Without Getting Injured
I can’t start this post without thanking you from the bottom of my heart for the response to my post on living the life I have imagined. Your supportive and encouraging comments, emails, tweets, and messages were so appreciated. I’m pretty sure that was the happiest Monday I’ve ever had!
You also seemed to like the previous post, which covered 7 supplements I’m currently taking. I’m always looking for your feedback, so if you have any further suggestions, don’t hesitate to let me know! And while we’re on the topic of supplements, I thought I’d let you know about a “Buy One Get One Free” sale of vitamins and supplements going on at CVS until 1/11/14. (I have no relationship with CVS and am not getting compensated in any way for this, I just thought I’d share in case you were inspired by the post and want to start taking any supplements!)
OK, onto today’s topic. It’s the first work week of January, which means that gyms everywhere are packed with newly dedicated exercisers. If you are one of those, congratulations on making the decision to improve your health! Unfortunately, the influx of new exercisers in January also comes along with an influx of exercise-related injuries. Have you ever noticed that many people start their exercise programs with such admirable dedication and enthusiasm, that they end up either burned out or injured within a few weeks? I want to help you prevent burn out and injury, so here are five tips for increasing your exercise.
1. Start slowly, and build gradually.
- Just because your New Year’s Resolution was to start working out does not mean you need to spend hours in the gym every single day.
- If you’re a beginner, you may want to commit to 30 minutes of moderate activity 2-3 times per week (be specific, like I suggest in my post on how to set New Year’s Resolutions). Once you’ve achieved that for 3-4 weeks, increase your activity to 3-4 times per week, then build to 40 minutes, and potentially up to an hour. It’s tempting to dive right in and do everything you can, but try to restrain yourself – your motivation and your body will thank you.
2. Don’t do more than your body can handle.
- You know your body best, and it’s impossible for me to tell you in a blog post what is too much for your individual body. But be honest with yourself – if you need to back off, back off.
- Muscle soreness is usually OK (that means you’re challenging yourself!), but debilitating soreness that lasts for several days and/ or impairs your regular functions is a sign that you outdid yourself.
- Whenever you feel acute pain (rather than dull soreness), your best bet is to stop. Did you know that your muscles and lungs actually adapt to an increase in exercise far more quickly than your ligaments and tendons? That’s why most injuries in exercise beginners are things like sprains, strains, or tendonitis. It just takes time for ligaments and tendons to get used to exercise, which is why you need to start out slowly and monitor how you’re feeling.
3. Rest and recover.
- Be sure to incorporate a rest day (or several rest days) into your schedule. This will help your body recover so you can exercise stronger in the days to come!
- If you feel any nagging pain, use the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). You can check out my thoughts on compression here.
- If you want to include some movement on some of your rest days, try going for a brisk walk or doing some yoga or stretching.
4. Vary your exercise program.
- I’ve posted before about how mixing up your exercise routine is good for anyone, but it’s especially important for beginning exercisers. If your body isn’t used to exercise, and you perform one repeated motion day after day, you’re more likely to get injured than if you’re building several muscles in your body through diverse exercise.
- If you’re looking for things to change it up, the possibilities are endless. If you want to be outdoors, try running, walking, or cycling. If you want to stay at home, do some home or hotel circuit workouts (there are so many quick ones that you can do with no equipment on my Pinterest boards!), or do some at-home yoga or Barre3. If you’re headed to the gym, try the elliptical machine, rowing machine, or take a kickboxing, Zumba, spinning, or Body Pump class. If you’re tight on time, just try to stand up from your desk several times a day and take a 5-minute walk around the office!
5. Check your technique.
- If you’re weight lifting or performing an exercise that is new to you, please make sure you are using proper form.
- If you’re at a gym or in a workout class, ask one of the personal trainers or teachers to watch your form. They’re almost always happy to help!
- If you’re doing a workout on your own, try doing a Google search for the proper form before starting. There are several reputable sources out there, and a quick 5-minute video might save you from an injury.
If you do think you may have an injury, I would recommend seeing a doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist. If you prefer Doctor Google, I’ve found this symptom checker to be fairly accurate and helpful!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or licensed personal trainer. This post is intended for information and education only.
So tell me in the comments … Have you ever been injured from exercise? If so, what happened? What other tips do you have to prevent injury when one is starting to exercise?