People ask all the time “If it hurts, should I push through it.” You have to get in tune with your body. Is it sore because you’re exerting yourself in ways you haven’t pushed before? Or is it pain, and are there other things accompanying that pain like swelling, numbness, discoloration, etc?
I do think working with a trainer to learn proper technique is very important. Trainers can safely get you the results you want. Side note: avoid trainers who push you too hard and try to use a cookie-cutter approach to fitness training.
Trainers can help you know the difference between soreness and injury.
Today, let’s assume you don’t know the difference between soreness and injury. Here are 5 things you should do in the gym to modify your workout to protect yourself from injury.
1. Have a plan.
Plans are crucial to preventing injury and to overcoming a potential injury. A plan to prevent injury will dictate the types of exercises you perform.
2. Warm up.
Working cold and tight muscles can lead to injury. Warming up helps to prepare your body for exercise and to loosen your muscles so that they can adapt and react to the demands placed on them.
3. Stretch – before and after
Don’t skip stretching after your warm up. Stretching routines abound online, so find one that works for you, and make sure you actually use it!
4. Pick a few different body parts and focus on them.
Don’t try to work your entire body in one workout when weight lifting. Use lighter weight, higher reps, and focus on your form. The lighter weight will help you maintain good form, which is especially important if you’re concerned about an injury.
5. Don’t go head to head against other people in the gym.
This is a life “thing.” Many people want to do just as much as the people around them, so exercise becomes a big competition to see who can lift, squat, or push the most weight. It doesn’t matter if you’re using ten-pound weights or 70 pound weights. Be smart about your form and your reps. Know when you’ve done enough, and always listen to your body for signs of injury.
6. Stretch and cool down.
We’re hitting this one again, but I’m just going to reiterate the importance of stretching after exercise. Foam rolling is pretty great too.
7. Track your progress.
Keep track of your exercise. If you start to notice weakness in your shoulder, write it down. Tracking your exercise will help you identify trends that could point to injuries or the need for rest.
8. Be willing to cross train.
If you have always been a runner, but your knee started to bother you, get on an elliptical, or hop in the pool to swim laps. It’s good for you.