The most skilled athletes and fitness gurus recognize the importance of exercise. Simultaneously, they acknowledge injury can ensue if workouts are not properly executed. Don’t be ashamed to take a slow-and-steady approach, whether you’re beginning a new routine or advancing your favorite exercise program to the next level. Being cautious prevents injuries. Rushing into a lifestyle of fitness can lead to setbacks, including a stint on the couch for recovery of strained muscles or worse.
You’ve resolved to lose weight, build muscle, and improve your performance (either while playing ball or juggling groceries and a briefcase). You’re anxious to get started, and we commend your excitement. However, remembering advice applicable to all exercisers will help assure longevity. Build a happy body that continues to work for you.
Proper Warm-Up & Cool-Down
A fitness program is not complete without the most basic beginning and end, which includes stretching. Regardless of how many reps you accomplish on the Exercise Floor, laps in the pool, or Group Fitness classes you attend, warm-ups and cool-downs are critical to your health and safety.
Without essential periods of stretching, you risk injury. Also, you may decrease range-of-motion and flexibility, the very issues you strive to improve through exercise. A stretching routine is an ideal transition into every type of workout, from low impact to high intensity. It’s an easy way to prepare the body, and mind, for time dedicated to bettering yourself. As any yoga practitioner will assure you, stretching provides great relaxation and cleanses the mind. There’s no better shift from a stressful commute or crazy carpool to an enjoyable, effective workout.
Tips for stretching:
- Stretch for 8 to 10 minutes before and after each workout. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Anything less can be a waste of your valuable time allotted for fitness.
- Focus on breathing during your stretches. Muscles relax through oxygenation. Practice deep inhales through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
- Don’t bounce while stretching. Gradually and smoothly deepen your stretches with slow, even breathing.
- Every stretch session should include neck, upper chest, triceps, obliques, abdominals, lower back, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.
- Stretch throughout the day. Whether at your desk, running errands, or balancing a baby and her/his cumbersome gear—break for a stretch. It’s silly to strain a muscle at your keyboard or from carrying one too many sippy cups, but it happens!
Take advantage of the Center’s commitment to recognizing your individuality. Consult with a personal trainer about stretches specific to your needs. S/he can instruct you on stretching with proper form, targeting specific muscle groups to make your workout more effective, and reducing injury through overall improved warm-ups and cool-downs.
If your workout consists of a Group Fitness class, which includes its own warm-up and cool-down, additional stretches can enhance your experience. Attending class physically and mentally prepared improves outcome.
Have you ever anticipated a day at the beach, dropping your bags, cooler, and umbrella at the first empty patch of sand, only to jump in the ocean and immediately pull your neck? The same is true of your daily agenda. You’re lugging around literal and figurative baggage throughout the day. Although anxious to refresh yourself at the Center, before you dive in, you must transition. The body and mind need to be ready for a switch to healthy physical activity.
The Workout Itself: Accomplishing a Pain-Free Plan
Center members have diverse goals, which is one reason we’re such an enthused fitness community. Some want to play a quick game of hoops that breaks out during the weekend without getting winded. Others are striving to make team championships. Some are recovering from injuries. And, we all try to avoid them.
Personal trainers are skilled at preventing injury while exercising. Many specialize in rehabilitation training to assist members who are recovering from an injury or surgery. Fitness Manager Anthony Coco advises, “Don’t ignore your back and hips when working the core. Many people mistakenly think the core is only abs, but it involves the entire lumbo-pelvic region. A strong core will help prevent injury.”
He also suggests working the joints through their full functional range-of-motion in different planes. “Our bodies are not built to sit or stand in only one position. They are designed to move in different planes at any given moment and adjust depending on the environment,” Anthony explains. Consider hiring a personal trainer who can teach progressive movements that improve overall functioning.
Learn which muscles surround a joint and their functions. This allows you to work them more efficiently. Anthony provides the example of chest (pectoral) muscles and latissimus dorsi, which cross the shoulder joint. “Overworking the chest may actually weaken the upper back by pulling the shoulders forward. This situation results in exposing the neck to more chance of injury,” he warns. Personal trainers are great for sharing such insights. Their tips can make the difference between another round on the Exercise Floor or a day on the couch.
Exercising without a proper warm-up and cool-down is like buying high-performance sneakers without good arches. It lacks the fundamental support necessary for superior performance. Don’t just exercise. Do it right.
“Fitness and Injury: Stretching Dos and Don’ts to Avoid Injury,” Jackie Bebenroth, at www.essortment.com.
Stretch (introduction photo): http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Side stretch at work: www.flickr.com/photos/myyogaonline/457339544
Baby in tote: www.flickr.com/photos/amanky/25308285