It might seem like a good idea to try out that crane pose in yoga or the one where you balance on your hands, but unless you’re well practised moving yourself into odd positions can cause more damage than good.
And it’s not just the difficult exercises that can cause problems – even the most innocuous of moves can have you hobbling around in agony leading to serious hip, lower back or shoulder injuries if you’re not careful.
Even those who are taking extreme levels of exercise can get too overenthusiastic and do themselves a mischief by not taking due care and attention to their bodies.
But you can take steps to prevent injuring yourself and as long as you do it right, you’ll be in that fancy yoga pose before you even know it!
Here’s the best way to safeguard yourself from sprains and strains before you begin an exercise.
- Stretch, stretch and stretch again. Warming up seems like a pretty boring start to a dynamic exercise session – but if you launch your muscles and joints headlong into a gruelling workout then they will be cold and unyielding and something will snap. Your body should be nicely warmed up and feeling ready to leap around before you begin. And if you feel any twinges during exercise – stretch some more.
- Use the correct technique. It seems like an obvious point to make, but if you’re lifting 100lb free weights and you’re not bending your knees – then your back is likely to give up. Any exercise has a standard technique – and for good reason, so make sure you use it.
- Keep within your fitness level. If you’re just starting out but you decide to head to boot camp for a gruelling five day solid session of circuits, cardio, weights and no let up, then you can expect to properly break your body. The key with exercise is moderation, and to let yourself ease in gently to a routine that suits your lifestyle and one that you can maintain.
- Take on enough fluid. Keeping yourself hydrated is crucial to keeping your body cool and lubricated. If you don’t drink enough then your muscles become dehydrated, you’ll get headaches, your kidneys won’t function properly and you’ll be more prone to illness and injury.
- Eat to repair muscle. Even though it might not sound like a clever idea, eating after exercise is crucial for muscle fibre repair. Eating protein, along with green leafy vegetables is a great way to restore your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to heal you after you’ve finished exercising.
- Know when to stop. If you’re feeling tired, or stretched too far, then it’s time to stop. The philosophy of “I’ll work through the pain” is not one to be taking on here. Taking it easy is key to maintain a healthy body and if you feel an injury coming on, stop before it takes hold.
- Seek advice if you have underlying health problems. As with anything, if you have any concerns before taking on an exercise programme, talk it through with your GP. They will be able to guide you on your limitations and the kind of thing you should and shouldn’t be doing. Also talk to your trainer or class leader about anything that is concerning you as it’s best to get professional advice on the type of fitness programme you should be undertaking.
- Stretch again. Yes, that’s right. Once you’ve finished your class or session, then you need to gently get your muscles and joints used to behaving normally again. Gently stretch them out, that’s your whole body. You’ll go away feeling limber and healthy if you do this rather that scrunched up and tight.
- Supplement your programme with a healthy living philosophy. It’s all very well heading out to the gym with gusto but if you’re going to return home to smoke 40 a day and sit on the couch for the rest of the week then you’re doomed to be unwell. Exercise should be part of a healthy lifestyle which includes making healthy food choices, keeping active throughout the day, and taking time for yourself to clear your mind and feel good.
- Rest. This is as crucial as exercise itself. If you don’t give yourself time to rest then your muscles won’t repair themselves, you’ll tear ligaments and start hobbling, making other parts of your body subject to injury as well. Taking time out may sound like a cop out, but it’s actually a hugely important part of recovery.
While a new exercise programme sounds exciting and dynamic, it’s vital you take it at your own pace and don’t try to impress others with the amount or level you are working at. If you listen to your body, eat healthily and stretch often, then there’s no reason you should injure yourself.