It isn’t a matter of if, it is a matter of when. Exerting yourself at the gym opens your muscles and ligaments up to injuries. Hayley tore her meniscus. I couldn’t do bench for a long time due to a back injury. Every day at the gym we see a girl with a walking cast (looks like an ankle break or tear) getting after it. Injuries happen.
You can prevent or lessen the impact of an injury by remaining mindful of your body and its limits. When you do experience pain, assess the situation and use your diet to stay on track for your goals.
Using proper form will prevent most injuries. When you are squatting or lunging make sure your knees don’t extend past your toes. When you are benching, don’t allow your elbows to flare out or exceed a 90 degree angle. If you are doing sit-ups or crunches be careful not to flex and strain your neck. In the end, just make sure to learn the proper technique of any new lift you are incorporating to protect yourself from injury.
Start light. Even if you are lifting less than the person next to you, don’t let your ego lead to an injury. The heavier the weight, the more difficult it will be to master the technique. Begin light until you are sure you know proper form, and then began slowly increasing. By light, we mean start with a weight you can rep 12-15 times while focusing on your form.
Warm ups. Let your muscles get warmed up before your workout. A warm up does not mean you need to run a mile before lifting, in fact cardio in the beginning will reduce your overall impact of lifting. Instead take a warm up set on every lift. Even after you have mastered the proper form, start really light to reengage your muscles before you actually begin lifting.
Rule of thumb for injuries: If something hurts more after you lift it, then take a break. Hurting is different than injuries. It is possible to hurt a muscle without injuring it– being sore is normal, experiencing sharp pain is not. However if something is hurting consistently or getting worse then give the muscle 1-3 days to recover. If the area is still painful after this rest period, go to your doctor and make sure you something more serious isn’t the cause.
Stretching will increase your flexibility and can help prevent injuries. We have been *trying* to take 5-10 minutes every day to stretch. Health is a total body journey, and sometimes we forget to incorporate Yoga or even mild stretching before bed into our routine.
If you have injuries:
First and foremost, you need to take care of yourself. The sooner you recover, the sooner you can get back into the gym. Rest, hydrate, stretch, and allow yourself to heal.
Don’t use injuries as excuses! Chances are, if you are injured you can still do something in the gym (remember our friend with the walking cast? She lifts arms, back, and chest while her leg is healing). When I injured my ankle.. at a trampoline park… thanks Hayley…I couldn’t do any legs or standing exercises. This didn’t stop me from getting into the gym though. I started shifting all of the exercises I used to do standing to sitting on the machines. Also, I still went into the gym just as much as I did when I wasn’t injured. This allowed me to keep the same diet while staying on track for my weight loss goals.
One of the worst things you can do while injured is slip on your diet. When you’re injured it can be easy just to say that you’re going to take some time off of everything. Instead, this is the time you should be the most strict with your diet! Coming off your diet will set you back further than anything else, and your body needs good nutrition, macros, and a calorie balance to heal quickly and properly.
Stay safe, stay consistent, and happy lifting