7 tips to prevent exercise injuries

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By: Organize Yourself Skinny

One of the worst things that can happen to derail your exercise routine is an injury. They can happen to anyone, and they happen more often than you might think. Seemingly harmless muscle sprains, strains, and tears can cause major pain and lead to weeks or months of not being able to exercise. You may have to work with a physical therapist or turn to surgery to get back on the road to exercise. This can be very frustrating and lead to lack of motivation, which can cause you to gain weight or lose track of your fitness goals.

The good news is that there are many habits you can practice that can help prevent injury from happening in the first place. That doesn't mean you won't ever get an injury, but you can certainly lessen the chances of it happening.

1) Cross train
This one is so important. Cross training means that you vary the type of exercise you do day to day so that you are not overusing the same muscles repeatedly. So you wouldn't want to do the same exact thing two days in a row. Running days should be scattered apart. Instead of running for cardio on consecutive days, try another form of cardio, like swimming, bike riding, or the elliptical. You will still burn calories, but your body will work in a different way. Strength training should also not be done on back to back days, unless you are going to work completely different muscle groups on each day. You need to give your muscles time to recover in between sessions.

2) Perform moves slowly and with control
One of the things I see in the gym all the time is people just flying through their movements without really taking their time. This is dangerous because you can cause injury when going too fast. It is also pointless because you are not going to see results that way. Your movements need to be purposeful and controlled. Really focus on the body part you are working and take your time.

3) Allow time for rest and recovery
Working your body hard is a good thing, but working your body too hard can be disastrous. Your muscles usually need time to recover in between strength training workouts, like I mentioned above about cross training. If you are really sore from a toning workout, that is your body's way of telling you to take a break. Usually one day of rest will do it. Overworking your body can lead to injury because your muscles won't be strong enough to support the exercise you are doing.

4) Warm up and cool down
This is another common mistake I see happen at the gym. Many people skip out on warming up and just jump right into a hard core workout with cold muscles, and/or don't bother cooling down when they finish. Warming up and cooling down only need to take five minutes each. Warming up your body will help you have a more effective workout because you won't tire out as quickly if you ease into things. Do something simple like walking, marching in place, really any light movement will do the trick. Cooling down can be the same kind of moves as warming up, but should also include some stretching to elongate your muscles and let them know the workout is over.

5) Start off easy
If you are newer to exercise, then you want to make sure you start off with simpler workouts to ease your body into the new things you are asking it to do. You want to gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts a little at a time. If you have never been a runner or run at all in your life, you should not set out to run three miles your first time out. With strength training, start with simple, single moves until you learn the correct form to try out other things, like combination moves.

6) Eat and drink
You need to be well nourished and hydrated before and after a workout. Having a light snack that includes carbs and protein a couple hours before your workout is a good idea to fuel your body for what it's about to do. Eating within a half hour after working out helps replenish the energy your body just used. See this post for some pre and post workout snack ideas. If you try to work out when you are hungry, you will not have enough energy to complete the moves properly, which could lead to injury. Drinking water before, during and after your workout is super important so that you don't get dehydrated. Dehydration is not necessarily an injury, but a serious condition you don't want to put your body through.

7) Wear proper workout attire
As a fitness instructor I have seen people try to work out in some crazy outfits that are not conducive to exercise. My favorite was when a woman showed up to my body sculpting class wearing a denim skirt, no joke. I'm not sure how she was comfortable. Maybe she forgot her workout clothes, but still really wanted to exercise! Anyway, you definitely want to be comfortable when you work out, but you also need to think about how safe your clothes are (hint: not a denim skirt). Baggy clothes are usually a bad idea because they can get in the way of your movements. You don't want to be constantly pushing sleeves up or trip over your pants. Wear form-fitting clothing that is designed for exercise and that will help keep sweat off your body. You don't want to be constantly wiping at sweat either. Most importantly is your footwear. Make sure you are always wearing sneakers. Check out this post for choosing the right sneakers for your workout.

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