Here’s how to keep your New Year’s fitness resolution — without injury!
If you’re thinking about getting healthy or fit in 2018, you aren’t alone. Fitness was the most popular New Year’s resolution last year, according to iQuanti, and is among the top goals for Americans each year. Yet the adrenaline and determination to start 2018 off right can have an unexpected side effect: injury.
With enthusiasm for a new resolution, it’s common to start January by running miles every day, jumping into a daily boot camp class or attacking a muscle group you aren’t used to exercising. Regardless of your overall fitness level, this can quickly lead to injuries that may take months to heal, including tendinitis, muscle strains and stress fractures. Unfortunately, injuries due to exercise or exercise equipment are among the most common injuries seen in the ER, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Our offices fill up in mid-January with workout-related injuries, often to the knee, shoulder or hip as a result of exercising too hard or neglecting to cross-train. As you plan your goals for 2018, take some time to consider how to accomplish them safely. Some tips to keep you in the gym and out of the doctor’s office:
Start simple. Learn the basics of warming up and stretching before you work out to avoid strains and sprains. You may want to sign up for an online warm-up program before you head to the gym. If you plan to take a new class, let the instructor know if you haven’t done that type of workout before or haven’t been exercising regularly so they ease into the exercises.
Choose a lower-impact activity, such as an elliptical machine, bicycle or water exercise, if you haven’t been exercising regularly.
Plan to work out just three days a week. You should take several months to ramp up to more frequent exercise, longer aerobic activities or more impactful workouts such as running and weight training.
Remember: Pain may not be gain. Whether you’re just starting a workout routine or branching out into a new style of exercise, you don’t want to be in pain early on. If you listen to your body and rest when you are in pain, you could prevent a more serious injury. You need to build up muscle endurance and strength before the soreness will be a healthy measure of building muscle.
Poor form quickly causes injury. Improper technique can be a result of training on your own — learning a new exercise from workout videos, for example — or pushing your muscles past the point of fatigue and forcing other muscles to compensate. Unfortunately, this often causes an injury. We recommend carefully listening to your body and stopping an exercise when you notice your form deteriorating. If you are learning a new exercise — from yoga to weight training to an elliptical machine — the safest plan is to go to a class or use a trainer at first to ensure proper technique.
Research shows that a full 80 percent of those who buy gym memberships to support a fitness resolution will drop their memberships within five months — and nearly 20 percent are gone by February. Don’t let an early injury sideline your workout routines and fitness goals this year. By listening to your body and easing into an exercise plan, you can build strength safely and meet your 2018 resolutions.
Dr. Scott Faucett and Dr. M. Brian Polsky practice throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. with The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics, the largest private orthopedic provider in the country.