If you are beginning (or resuming) an exercise program, congratulations! You have taken a great step towards a healthier lifestyle. Well done. I’d like to share some helpful hints to avoid injuries and get the most out of your workouts. If you are new to exercise altogether, it might be best to train with a professional. Personal trainers can teach you the techniques and proper form of all types of exercises, whether it’s “boot camp,” yoga, strength training, cardio kickboxing class, etc. However, let the trainer or instructor know that this is new for you. They may assess your abilities based on how you appear while performing the exercise, and you should speak up if you feel pain or discomfort or if you feel a particular weight is too heavy for you (many injuries happen when a person follows instructions without communicating their pain level). You should also indicate any past or present injuries you may have. If you are returning to an exercises program, it often helps to start out with a partner or someone to whom you are accountable. It can facilitate the schedule and keep your discipline strong on days when you might prefer to skip out. I find that writing a log of what you’ll do (or a record of what you’ve done) for the week is helpful for developing goals and keeping a record.
Practical points to remember:
-Start slow. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a fit body. Don’t expect immediate results if you are looking to lose weight or suddenly have six pack abs. This is a lifestyle that you should adhere to for health reasons, and the perks are looking fit and feeling better. It takes time and results will come.
-If you feel pain, stop doing the activity.
-Prepare and finish correctly: warm up and stretch before exercise; a proper cool down and stretch after exercise is essential too. Be aware of your resting and target heart rate numbers during and after exercise.
- If you are building up to intensive workouts, consider putting ice on any joints that feel sore afterwards. For instance, if you are training for a race, and your knees feel a tad sore, put an ice pack on them after you run. If you strength train, and have increased weight and your shoulders feel sore after lifting, ice your shoulders. And so on.
- Build in recovery days where you either rest or do a very different type of exercise. For example, if you lift weights, alternate body parts during the week: shoulders and back on Mondays, legs and abs on Wednesdays, biceps, chest and triceps on Fridays, with cardio or yoga on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Lifting weights and muscle exertion in general causes muscle tears that eventually help build muscle. But this process of muscle regeneration needs time to recover and build properly; continuous muscle strain will cause more damage that strength.
-Focus on form and never compromise form for speed or weight amount.
-Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
-Eat healthy: a well-balanced diet with adequate protein is even more important when exercising.
-If your muscles feel sore from a hard workout, try soaking in an Epsom salts bath. The magnesium in the Epsom salts will help relax your muscles.
-If working out outdoors (as with running or cycling), be sure to do it during hours when the sun isn’t too hot to avoid dehydration and sunstroke.
-Dress appropriately: just as warm-ups are essential, so is making sure your body temperature is adequately regulated with the clothing layers you wear and the outdoor/indoor climate. Being too warm or too cold during exercise can cause injury and illness.
-Be realistic: I find that the most injuries happen when people are over-zealous with their workouts- the mentality of “When I was younger, I used to bench press xxx lbs” gets you into trouble. If you are at a starting point, you will eventually work your way up to a greater level of fitness. No need to rush and cause injury, which will set you back a long way.
Remember, the main thing is that you’re doing exercise and improving your health. Make it enjoyable and have a realistic time table for results if you are after a particular goal.