Getting back to reality: Preventing injuries when you start back to the gym

For most of us, it is time to get back to the gym after a lengthy break. There are countless distractions that can make exercise fall to the bottom of our list of priorities, such as: vacations, travel, colds and flu, work or family crisis, etc. But it is time to get back on the right track!

When you finally return to the gym after a long absence, it is important to avoid behaviors that can result in injuries. Depending upon how long it has been since your last workout, your body may have lost some of its flexibility and tolerance for exercise. Therefore, before you begin or return to an exercise program, you should be evaluated to make certain you are able to handle the increased demands on your body. There are some injuries that can be exacerbated by certain exercises. It is important to remember that a visit before you begin your workout could save you many visits later.

Here are some tips to prevent injuries while you begin or return to an exercise program:

  1. Warm up properly.  Walk 15 to 20 minutes on a treadmill, slowly increasing the pace as you go.
  2. Perform 5-10 minutes of stretching after you walk.  Make sure to stretch all the major muscle groups, including quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, buttocks, shoulders, chest, back, neck, etc.
  3. Take it slow!  I felt the need to bold this tip because too many of my friends and patients do not heed this advice.  A common cause of injuries is excessive stress on underused muscles.
  4. It is inevitable that you will experience some stiffness after returning to exercise.  If the stiffness lasts longer than a few days, you should consider having it reevaluated.
  5. If you have been to the gym before, you may be tempted to pick up where you left off.  This is a leading cause of injuries for those who return to the gym.  Be prepared to start with lighter weights - a safe amount is 50% of what you were lifting before you stopped.
  6. If you have pain during any exercise - STOP immediately.  Pain is your body's way of telling you that something isn't right - so listen to it.
  7. If you do get injured, remember the acronym RICE:  Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate.

The six most common words we hear in our office are "I thought it would go away."  If you have pain, especially after following a new exercise program, please contact our office at (540) 343-0055 for an appointment to see if chiropractic can help.

Dr. Jennifer Walker

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