Starting a new fitness journey at the beginning of the year will ultimately yield results in your energy levels, cardiovascular endurance, strength, and overall health — but it’s also the prime time to experience injuries. Although even the most fit person at the health club can get injured if they don’t use proper form, over-exert themselves, or put in too many training days, it’s the beginners who are out of shape who face the highest risk.
The possibility of getting injured isn’t a reason to quit working out or lose momentum; it just means you’ll need to be more careful starting out. Here are a few of the most common newbie gym injuries and what you can do to prevent them.
Back injuries are among the most common when you start to hit the fitness gym regularly again, and the key reason is our modern lifestyle. Sedentary jobs that require long hours of sitting, hunched over with poor posture, weaken our back muscles. Hitting the gym after work may be good for your fitness, but it’s also a recipe for over-exerting or injuring these weak muscles.
Besides easing into a workout program slowly, there are several things you can do to protect and strengthen your back:
- Practice good posture while sitting and standing, and stand throughout the day whenever possible.
- When you lift weights from the floor lift with your legs, not your back and arms.
- Always practice proper form for every exercise, keeping your back, neck, and head in alignment to protect them.
- Start exercises with your back against a wall to practice good posture and alignment, especially with squats.
- Strengthen your upper and lower back with the reverse fly, bent-over row, cat-cow stretch and reach, and the swan dive (“Superman”).
Our knees are also highly susceptible to injury, and are often a chronic trouble area – especially when starting a new workout program. Many people make the mistake of doing knee exercises to try to prevent injuries, but the real problem lies in weak hip, glute, and quad muscles — again, due to our sedentary lifestyles. Strengthen these surrounding muscles and protect your knees by doing exercises like lunges, squats, and hip flexor stretches, and taking shorter strides when you run.
The hamstrings are some of the most powerful muscles in the back of our legs that engage when we walk, run, or jump. Strained or pulled hamstrings most often result from weak, tight, or imbalanced leg muscles, so the prevention is to strengthen them and ease (and out of) into your workouts with warmups and cool downs.
Did you know that typing on a keyboard all day places strain on your shoulders? This activity forces us to rotate our shoulders inward, the same movement we use at the gym for many chest and shoulder exercises. The best way to strengthen your shoulders is to give them plenty of outward rotation (a good option is the row machine at the fitness center). Be sure to also give your shoulders a rest after a heavy upper body strength-training day.
These and many other injuries may be common to newcomers easing into a workout routine, but they’re not inevitable. Practice good form and posture, ease into new workouts, and build up gradually. Always do what’s best for your body rather than your ego, and you’ll have a much better chance of staying injury-free.