Injury-Proof Your Exercise Resolution
You've vowed to get moving; here's how not to get sidelined
Who doesn't make a New Year's resolution every year either to start exercising or get more exercise?
Come January, your enthusiasm to make this year one of fantastic, habitual movement can be sky-high. That's great, but before heading out, take a moment to consider how you can injury-proof that resolution and reduce the risk of being sidelined soon after you get going.
This crash course will take less time to read than your warm-up or your drive to the gym. Here’s what the experts suggest to keep yourself moving, not limping.
"There is no such thing as injury prevention, only the likelihood of reducing injury," says Cris Dobrosielski, an exercise expert, consultant for the American Council on Exercise and author of "Going the Distance: The Three Essential Elements of Optimal Lifelong Fitness And Injury Prevention."
The more steps you take that are known to reduce injury risk, the less likely you'll get hurt.
Repeat: Yes, it can happen to you
Injuries from exercise aren't inevitable, but they are common. For instance, about one in four new runners, when tracked for a year, had a soft tissue or bone injury according to a report in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine in 2013. Other studies have also found that same one in four injury rate among novice exercisers.
Harness that enthusiasm
Doing too much too quickly is one of the major routes to injury, Dobrosielski says. If you haven’t exercised in years, "don't go out and run the distance you ran in college," he says. Start out at a pace that lets you talk easily. Build the intensity over time. If you're a runner, think in terms of building up minutes of your workout, not focusing on the miles.
The American Heart Association suggests increasing your walking or running time by only 10 to 20 percent a week. If you ran two miles easily this week, bump it up to less than 2.5 next week.
If you're weight training, walk away before you are exhausted.
Dress the part
Get shoes designed for your specific workout and replace them every 300 to 500 miles if you're a walker or runner. That will help avoid the wear and tear that can set you up for injury, the Heart Association says.
Experts debate whether cotton or synthetic socks are better for keeping your feet comfortable and blister-free. According to the Heart Association, synthetic beats out cotton, producing fewer blisters.
Women who are exercising strenuously should consider a sports bra.
Wear a helmet for roller skating and biking workouts.
Getting stuck in an exercise rut isn't just boring, it's dangerous. Switching it up can take the load off one system and put it on another, a good thing for reducing injury risk.
''A blend of running and weight lifting is great," Dobrosielski says.
Warm up and stretch at the right times
Stretching and its value in injury prevention has been long debated, and some recent studies have concluded that static stretching (holding a stretch without moving) before exercise isn't helpful and may be counterproductive.
According to the American Council on Exercise, a dynamic warm-up is better than static stretching to prep for exercise. Dobrosielski suggests 5 or 10 minutes of low intensity activity, such as marching in place and arm rotations, before you work out.
If you want to stretch, do it after your workout, suggests Dobrosielski. Include your hamstrings (back of the legs) hip flexors (front of the hips), outer hips and lower back. "Each stretch should be held for 30 to 60 seconds and done once or twice," he says.
Don't chill out too much
If you are walking or running outdoors, keep your music down enough to hear vehicles, including the many very quite hybrid cars now on the road.
Don't get so engrossed in the joy of movement or your music that you forget to look both ways at crosswalks or to heed the traffic lights.