Feel the Burn - 7 ways to avoid exercise injuries in the gym
I was smashing a HIIT workout on Thursday last week when I began to notice a niggle in my back / butt. Towards the end of my workout, I was doing some jump squats. As I was landing from one, I felt a weird cramp in the top of my right butt cheek, and upon landing from the next jump, it turned into a full on pain. Needless to say, that was the end of my workout. I spent a few minutes stretching afterwards to see if it would help, but since then it has been bothering me. I am now off to the chiropractor this afternoon after almost a week of hoping the discomfort would go away.
Now, to be very clear - I warmed up before my workout - 10 minutes incline walking on the treadmill and then doing some glute activation before I started the HIIT session. Maybe that wasn’t quite enough, but sometimes, these kinds of injuries also just happen. It’s super frustrating, because it feels like they set you back - since last Thursday I have only managed to get one LISS session and one very light weight training session in.
With any kind of exercise there can be a risk of injury - a lot of time these are due to improper form (e.g. back injuries from deadlifting incorrectly), but sometimes they can also happen because of overuse (e.g. not allowing for enough rest / recovery between workouts). To be honest, I’m good about warming up before a session, but I’m less consistent with stretching / recovery afterwards (something for me to work on!) - and in all likelihood, this is probably why I’m now in the predicament I’m in.
Here are 7 tips for staying injury free:
Think that doing a few hamstring and shoulder stretches before a workout will cut it? WRONG. Static stretching (e.g. holding a quad stretch for 30 sec to elongate the muscle) is actually not what you want to be doing prior to getting sweaty. Instead, you should focus on an active or dynamic warm-up routine which increases blood flow to the muscles and wakes up your nervous system.
Check yourself out
There is a reason why gyms are filled with mirrors. No, it’s not so that you can take #sweatyselfies (nothing wrong with doing that, though!). They are there so that you can check yourself out - not in the “wow I look good” sense - but more so that you can watch your form as you perform exercises and make sure that you are actually doing them correctly. Which brings me to my next point…
Get a trainer
Personal trainers are no longer just for celebrities and rich housewives. Pretty much any gym you walk into will offer personal training services. If you are unsure of yourself, and want to make sure that you are doing the basic movements, like squats, deadlifts, bench-press etc correctly, it may be worth booking a few sessions with a PT to get their guidance and advice. Yes, personal training can be pretty expensive. This doesn’t mean that you need to book a permanent spot with them 3 times a week - just explain to them that you’d like to have a few sessions with them to make sure your form is correct.
A lot of online trainers will ask their clients to send in videos of them performing exercises so that they can give them tips. This is a good option for more advanced lifters who just need advice on tweaks to improve their form.
Aches and pains
Yes, very often during a workout you will “feel the burn” - but there is a difference between that and actually experiencing pain. If at any point in your workout you feel a niggle, or a sharp pain, it’s probably a good idea to stop and get it seen to before you do more damage to yourself.
Make sure that when you are finished with your workout, you spend a few minutes cooling down - this might involve some stretching and foam rolling, and doing a gentle walk on the treadmill. Really try and pay attention to your body and how it feels at the end of your workout. If there is anything that seems a bit sore, pay extra attention to it, and maybe use the RICE method to treat something that seems like a minor injury.
Now, what about if you get injured despite taking all the precautions???
Firstly, stop your workout. Secondly, go and get help - this could be from a physiotherapist, chiropractor, biokineticist or a doctor, depending on what happened. Also, make sure that if they suggest follow-up appointments, you actually go to them to make sure the problem gets treated properly. There’s nothing worse than having an on-going injury just because you didn’t get it properly seen to the first time around.
Rest & Relaxation
If the specialist you go to suggests that you take some time off exercise, LISTEN TO THEM. They are a professional who knows what they are talking about. Yes, it can be frustrating, but in the long run, your body will thank you for taking their advice.
Remember to take care of yourselves :)
All my love,
Disclaimer: I am not qualified in fitness or in injury prevention - these tips are based on my own desktop research and personal experience.